A BUSINESS leader has said it is "ridiculous" that funding for an effective system to support businesses should only come with Tier 3 restrictions.

There is currently no specific funding in place for businesses in Tier 2 areas, many of whom have seen footfall plummet since being place at the high alert level.

Jonathan Walker, director of policy for the North East Chamber of Commerce, said: "Businesses need sufficient support to protect jobs and prevent irreparable cash flow problems.

“Test and trace has been championed by Government but nationally it is not working. We believe it is ridiculous that to get funding to get an effective system, and support businesses, you need to agree to be in Tier 3.

"Surely Government's focus ought to be preventing places from needing to enter Tier 3 in the first place.

“There also has to be transparent consultation with businesses on any measures that are introduced to minimise damage to our local economy, while ensuring everyone’s public health is protected as far as possible.”

Meanwhile Stockton MP Alex Cunningham described the situation as "unforgivable", after receiving a letter from health minister Nadine Dorries confirming no specific funding was available for businesses in Tier 2.

He said: "Anyone can see that the standard level of support is simply not enough to plug the gap from customers staying at home in areas under greater restrictions, and as a result we will see more business closures and more jobs lost. The lack of additional Government support for Tier 2 businesses is unforgivable.

"I am being contacted everyday by people who are worried that their business won't survive. They have spent years building up their enterprises and investing in the local community and they plead with me to pass on their stories to the Government. I have passed them on, and the Minister's letter shows that the Tories could not care less."

A response by Ms Dorries said: "With regards to your question regarding local businesses, there is currently no specific funding available for businesses in Local Covid Alert Level High areas.

"However, the Government has expanded the Job Support Scheme for closed businesses in England to support any business that is required to close due to Coronavirus restrictions, from November, when the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends."