Businesses on lockdown and the £9,000 government grants


Donna Young, 34, owner of the Locks and Shades hair salon in Yaxley, near Peterborough, says the offer of an additional £9,000 is a “relief”.

“It’s not just rent that needs to be paid, it’s also things like insurance,” she says.

“It was a worry [when the new lockdown was confirmed] so we’re definitely pleased that something has been announced.”

However, she is concerned for self-employed workers.

“All the staff are furloughed, so they are getting 80% of their wages which is a sense of relief for me and them,” she adds.

“But I worry about stylists who rent chairs in other salons. Those stylist won’t get support and really it’ll be up to the discretion of the owners.”

She called for some means-testing behind the grants “because some need it more than others”.

Simon Day, owner of the CDC Events wedding and corporate catering company, says the extra £9,000 is “welcome”, but as it is based on property rateable value, they will probably only get about £4,000.

The company, which is based in Harston, near Cambridge, normally has an annual turnover of about £2m and it has received almost £315,000 in grants and furlough payments from the government since the start of the pandemic.

By diversifying into Christmas hampers for its corporate clients, he says the firm has made £250,000 so far this financial year which is “enough to keep our doors open”.

Mr Day says there is a “substantial amount of help out there” but he is pinning his hopes of a real turnaround on the vaccine roll-out.

“We weren’t expecting anything from the wedding sector [this winter] as this, to some extent, is seasonal,” he says.

“But the cliff edge of April is still there when furlough ends. The effect of the vaccine will hopefully get things going again.”

Mr Day says the move into lockdown again is not a huge step from tier four restrictions and the business has already mothballed a large part of its operations.

Fourteen staff lost their jobs after a period on furlough in the autumn, with seven currently on part-time furlough.

Robert Tinkler is cultural manager for the Cambridge Junction music and arts venue, which has shows including Declan McKenna, Psychedelic Furs and Day Of The Triffids: A Gig Theatre Adventure on its schedule.

The Cultural Recovery Fund, provided the venue with £400,000 this year, allowing it to stay in business until end of March.

No staff have been let go and they are currently on flexi or part-time furlough.

Mr Tinkler says it may be excluded from applying for the latest £9,000 government offer as it has already benefitted from cultural recovery funding but will probably still apply for more help.

He says he is disappointed with the government’s “reactionary” approach to handling the pandemic.

Mr Tinkler says he spent most of last year moving shows that had been booked.

“Now I’m going to be moving them again, so my job consists of moving imaginary shows to imaginary points in the future,” he says.

“I don’t think we will be looking to a return to normality until the autumn really.”

Despite the vaccine being available, he was worried about pandemic restrictions continuing beyond a further six months.

Robin Standring of Cam Home and Gardens is the owner of an urban garden centre and hardware shop in Chesterton, Cambridge.

“Compared to many businesses we’ve been very busy this [past] year. People have wanted to fix their house, fix their garden and brew some beer,” he says.

“The difficult thing has been the short notice at having to change all the logistics of how we operate, and how we deliver our services to customers. It changed overnight.”

When it was forced to close its doors for four months in 2020, the firm, which employs four people, started a delivery service.

Gross takings have been slightly up on the previous year, Mr Standring says.

“We’ve kept our heads above water by working massively more hours to achieve the same,” he says.

“We’ve broken even this year, and that’s really down to the support of the local community; so many people have stepped up to support independent businesses.”

Trade is traditionally quieter in January and February, but Mr Standring says he will probably not be applying for the £9,000 grant.

“I would only take the grant if I needed to survive as there are many more businesses out there who need it more than me,” he says.