‘CATASTROPHIC’ advice from the government on the coronavirus pandemic has plunged town centre businesses into despair says Stratford’s BID director.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday advised people to keep social contact to a minimum – including avoiding pubs and restaurants, public transport and urging people to work at home where possible – as the outbreak continues to escalate in the UK.
The announcement has already seen the Royal Shakespeare Company close its doors until further notice, while forthcoming events across the district continue to be cancelled.
Stratforward BID director Joe Baconnet said the announcement was ‘deeply unhelpful’ for the business sector.
He told the Observer: “The government announcement, whilst no doubt grounded in scientific thinking, was deeply unhelpful and catastrophic for a business sector and town centre that has been absolutely battered already.
“We are calling on government to clarify the situation urgently. To ask the public to avoid pubs and restaurants has put the onus on businesses – they are in an impossible situation. The entire sector In Stratford, and nationwide, is deeply stressed and despairing.”
As part of last week’s budget the government announced financial support for small businesses disrupted by coronavirus.
But businesses say more support and information was needed.
Victoria Alcock, who runs The Family Network whose HQ is based in Stratford, is concerned for the small and independent business owners supported by the network.
She said: “We’ve got businesses we support all saying work is down and client numbers are greatly reduced. I’ve got a mobile hairdresser whose client base is mostly retirement homes which are closed to visitors.
“The biggest struggle at the moment is all the uncertainty.
“It’s great for the government to come out and to say there’s help for small businesses but where is it? Help is needed now.
“We all have rent to pay – we need to keep money coming in to pay bills.”
Stratford MP and junior business minister Nadhim Zahawi has been contacted for a comment.