A THIRD of closed small firms fear they will not reopen amid widespread redundancy plans.

More than 5,000 companies were surveyed by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which found more than a third of small businesses in the Tees Valley have been forced to close during the pandemic.

Of these, 30 per cent are not sure if they will reopen.

Many businesses are considered redundancies as they struggle to pay bills, shelve exports and pause product development.

FSB North East Area leader Michael Janes said: “The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been felt right across the small business community, with thousands of small firms all over the UK fearing for their futures.

"The Government has stepped-up with a huge range of support for millions of small businesses and sole traders, from income support schemes, to cash grants, to help with accessing finance and business rates breaks.

“Policymakers now need to realise that the economy will not go from zero to a hundred overnight once we’re into the recovery phase. The crucial support that’s on offer needs to be kept under review, and adapted to reflect the new normal as we chart a course back to economic recovery."

On Tuesday, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Government's furlough scheme will be extended until October and will be altered to allow workers to go back part time.

Mr Janes added: "A big chunk of small business owners who have saved jobs by making use of it say that the ability to furlough staff on a part-time basis – allowing them to work according to client demand and gradually come back into the workplace, whilst being supported by the scheme the rest of the time – would not only be helpful, it would save the firm.

"We are pleased the Chancellor has announced that part-time furloughing will be introduced which will help safeguard thousands of jobs in the months ahead.”

Just under 30 per cent of Tees Valley businesses have failed to make, or are struggling to make, rent or mortgage repayments while a similar per cent have shelved product development plans.

Meanwhile 37 per cent are considering, or have made, redundancies and seven in ten have furloughed staff. Two thirds of these businesses say the ability to partially furlough workers would benefit them and half want to bring back staff gradually.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “This survey shows that businesses are understandably concerned about the impact of the coronavirus, and this should come as no surprise to any of us.

"It is why I am making it my absolutely priority to do everything I can to help firms in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool get through this difficult and unprecedented time. My team has already met with the FSB to discuss the economic recovery and the support available for small businesses."

“I want to continue to stress that government support is available to help businesses who are really struggling because of the coronavirus. Yesterday, we heard Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme would be extended until October, making sure that furloughed workers will continue to receive 80 per cent of their salaries, and the support for self-employed is also now available weeks ahead of schedule.

“There is plenty of other support available and I would urge any concerned business in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool to get in touch with my dedicated coronavirus business support team by calling 01642 662777 or by emailing support@teesvalley-ca.gov.uk.

“My new Buy Local Tees Valley service is also designed to connect local people with businesses and local tradespeople across the region that are still open or operating. To sign up or for more information, visit buylocal.teesvalley-ca.gov.uk.

“Make no mistake, this is still a really difficult and uncertain time, but by working together and showing the true Teesside spirit, we can get through it and come out the other side strong than ever before.”