Norwich business leader launches attack at government's 'lack of clarity' over Covid restrictions

Stefan Gurney Norwich BiD Credit: ITV News Anglia

One of the region's business leaders has launched an attack on the government for not providing clarity on what will happen if further Covid restrictions are put in place after Christmas.

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District, said it was wrong that more than 18 months into the pandemic, support for businesses fighting to survive was being left until "the last minute" by Whitehall.

Many hotels pubs and restaurants are already reporting hundreds of cancellations on a daily basis at a time of year they had been relying upon at the end of another tough year.

"The lack of clarity on what happens next is having a huge impact on the hospitality and leisure sector," said Mr Gurney, who represents city centre businesses in sectors including retail and hospitality.

"Although the chancellor's £1bn rescue package is a step in the right direction it does not go far enough. We need grants and reduced business rates to get through the pandemic. The lack of action and last-minute decision-making just isn't good enough."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Credit: PA

As many businesses wait to see what might happen in the run up to the New Year, Mr Gurney said there was a simple solution.

"Whether it's Plan B, Plan C or even D a clear roadmap for our sector needs to be there right from the start and not seemingly as an afterthought. Clarity is the key to get us through these very tough times."

Mr Gurney's intervention comes as businesses attempt to work out what further restrictions may be imposed as the number of coronavirus cases reaches record levels.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that no new restrictions would be brought in before Christmas - leading many to assume that they will be brought in soon after.

He warned that the government was poised to "take action" after Christmas Day, if necessary.

"In view of the continuing uncertainty about several things – the severity of Omicron, uncertainty about the hospitalisation rate or the impact of the vaccine rollout or the boosters, we don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas," Mr Johnson said in a video message recorded by Downing Street released on Tuesday.

But the PM stressed that people should "exercise caution" over the Christmas period, "wear a mask indoors when required to do so, keep fresh air circulating, and take a test before you visit elderly or vulnerable relatives".