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Covid-19 - Uncertain times on the high street:  Chiltern Liberal Democrats talks to businesses in Amersham about the effects of the pandemic

November 20, 2020 11:17 AM

Amersham High Street

Chiltern Liberal Democrats, Jason Keeler, Mark Roberts and Selina Kerr on Sycamore Road, Amersham.

By Selina Kerr, Jason Keeler and Mark Roberts

The high street has been under threat from bigger business and on-line retailers for a long time. But Covid-19 had added yet another layer of difficulty and the return to a second lockdown by the government has provoked more fear and concern for high streets up and down the country.

Chiltern Liberal Democrat campaigners, Selina Kerr, Mark Roberts and Jason Keeler spoke just before the second lockdown to a number of high street businesses in Amersham to hear their views. While some businesses have fared better than others since the beginning of the pandemic, the overriding feeling is one of uncertainty.

This uncertainty has meant local businesses are struggling to plan for the future. Many businesses are frustrated that having invested in making themselves COVID ready and put all the safety measures in place, they are now 'back at square one' with the current lockdown.

A number of family owned businesses we spoke with said that rate relief was the only support they had received since March whereas others mentioned how rate relief, rent reductions or deferrals as well as the furlough scheme were critical to offset their lost income and enable them to continue operating. The 'Eat out to help out' scheme was widely adopted by F&B outlets.

When we spoke initially with businesses just before lockdown, they were very concerned that the furlough scheme had only been extended for a month. Since then, the Chancellor has caved to mounting pressure from the Liberal Democrats and other opposition voices and extended the scheme until March 21. While this is better than before, the Liberal Democrats believe the scheme should be carried through to June to enable businesses to better plan and protect their employees.

The needs of self-employed retail workers in Amersham are also an issue we must address. A number of those affected say they received NO support from their employers during the first lockdown despite their employers receiving rate relief and rent reductions. One retail sales person said

'I had no support from my employer for 88 days during the first lockdown. I am not sure I can make it through another lockdown'.

While there are some positive stories from our high street, we must not forget the short to medium term poses significant threat for most small businesses and their employees - who need our continued support.

Local businesses shouldn't pay the price for the Government's failure to control this pandemic.

The Liberal Democrats nationally and locally are advocating for further extension of furlough to provide much needed stability. We are also continuing to campaign so that the needs of self-employed people are properly recognised and supported like those of contracted employees. To find out more read :