Council and business leaders in Nottinghamshire say the country cannot afford another lockdown and ‘bailing out businesses’ is not a long-term solution to the problem.
Cllr Simon Robinson said hundreds of businesses in the hospitality and leisure industry in places such as West Bridgford have benefited from up to £3,000 grants this week.
The council has decided to use ‘several hundred thousand pounds’ of its own money to help struggling businesses in the run up to Christmas and New Year.
The Government is set to hand out additional grants in January, but the authority wanted to act before these grants of up to £6,000 are made available.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not ruled out further restrictions after the festive period as the Omicron variant continues to sweep across the country.
Some Nottingham business owners are also against any further restrictions after Christmas and believe it is time the country learnt to live with the virus.
Concerns by local council and business leaders include a circuit-breaker lockdown, as well as pubs having to offer outside drinking or the rule of six.
Colin Wilde, managing director of Castle Rock pubs in Nottingham, said: “It is the classic sledgehammer and nut. The damage has already been done.
“Omicron is out there – the horse has bolted, and we have got to ride it out. Spreading it is not the issue anymore, it is about what happens when you get it.
“Public safety is massively important to us – but putting legislation in place to put people outside or in small groups is unnecessary because that’s how it gets anyway in January and February.
“It is the quieter times. We are down on what we would normally expect in December, but it is still better compared to the average. Any cancellation could result in food waste or lack of employment.
“Getting stock is very difficult and we had to place emergency orders if we are busier than we thought or we have overstocked.
“If you don’t fill your coffers in your busiest time in December, then you can struggle in January and February when it is quieter.”
Mick Garton, who runs five MSR NewsGroup newsagents in Nottingham, said: “We have got to come up with a long-term solution and find a way to live with it. We can’t keep locking down.
“The city is quieter, and we are not getting the footfall you would normally have for this time of year. I feel sorry for the hospitality industry.”
Council leaders also feel further restrictions could have a detrimental effect on businesses and jobs.
Cllr Robinson said: “It is businesses and jobs and all the uncertainty. They desperately need that financial support, but we are mindful we cannot continue to do this going forward.
“We need to live with the virus and cannot keep bailing out businesses. We need everyone to come together to find a long-term solution.
“I am against another lockdown. It will destroy the economy.”
Cllr John Clarke (Lab), leader of Gedling Borough Council, said the authority has waded through 428 applications this week and is set to distribute £218,000 of cash left over from the last funding stream for businesses.
It is still waiting to hear how much it will receive from Government during this new round of funding for the leisure and hospitality sector.
“I think a lot of businesses will go to the wall – that’s why I am nervous about another lockdown.
“If they do not get the money this month they will struggle through January, February and March and there will be more empty holes in shopping areas.”
Cllr Milan Radulovic (Lab), leader of Broxtowe Borough Council, added: “I have real concerns. I think we will get more restrictions. I believe it’s too late – that’s my personal view – it needed stronger action earlier.
“We need to get these grants to the hospitality sector as quickly as possible. Many restaurants, pubs, bars, and cafes are really struggling. A lot of venues are having cancellations.”
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak said: “We recognise that the spread of the Omicron variant means businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors are facing huge uncertainty, at a crucial time.
“So we’re stepping in with £1 billion of support, including a new grant scheme, the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and further funding released through the Culture Recovery Fund.
“Ultimately the best thing we can do to support businesses is to get the virus under control, so I urge everyone to Get Boosted Now.”