BUSINESSES have welcomed an announcement by the Chancellor after he unveiled his plan to “protect jobs” but believe more must be done.

Rishi Sunak confirmed yesterday that the new ‘job support scheme’ will allow staff to be paid by their employer for working at least a third of their usual hours, with the Government topping up part of their salary that would have otherwise been lost due to working reduced hours.

Kerina Clark, chair of the Aycliffe Business Park Community: “Any help and support for businesses to protect jobs during these turbulent times is welcome, but clearly there are still shortfalls for many employers.

“Aycliffe Business Park has a diverse range of companies in a variety of sectors. Sadly, some of them won’t be helped by these new packages, but they will be a lifeline to others.

“As a community organisation we’re here to help all Aycliffe businesses – whether that’s sign-posting them to help or connecting them with potential customers - so we’d encourage businesses to get in touch with us and we’d do all we can to help in any way we can.”

The Aycliffe Business Park Community Ltd (ABPC) was formed to continue building a bright and successful future for all businesses on the County Durham park.

Barry White, chief executive for Transport for the North, also welcomed the plan, he said: “The Chancellor’s continued support for jobs and businesses over the next six months is essential for our region’s prosperity and will give people and industries more confidence in facing the challenges ahead of us all.

“We welcome the Government’s continuing commitment to levelling up all areas of the country and this will need confirmed funding brought forward for vital infrastructure projects.

“As outlined in our Economic Recovery Plan, our proposed five-year, £5 billion pipeline of road and rail projects, including active travel and smart ticketing proposals, could create up to 20,000 design and construction jobs and lay the foundations for greener economic recovery and growth.

“We’d like to see further support for the North to “build back better” with committed, sustained investment for these schemes confirmed over the coming months.”

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However, critics have concerns about a lack of support for those who have lost their jobs.

Jonathan Walker, policy director, for the North East England Chamber of Commerce said: “With the furlough scheme due to end next month it was clear we needed further measures to prevent a huge spike in unemployment. The Government’s new 'job support scheme' shows they have recognised the importance of this issue and the scheme should help to preserve at least some jobs that would have otherwise been at risk.

“However, we are concerned the measures won’t go far enough for many jobs that are vulnerable and impacted by ongoing public health restrictions. The need to help businesses in sectors such as hospitality and culture has not gone away. In addition, we must support those people who will still unfortunately lose their jobs to help them retrain or potentially start their own business.

"We have also raised the issue of cash flow to protect the viability of vulnerable companies. Today’s announcement on VAT and state-backed loans demonstrate clearly Government recognises this. We realise that the measures will not be right for every business and that further economic support will be needed to prevent insolvencies.

“With reports of a delay to the Budget we are hugely concerned that this could also delay the levelling up the North East has been promised. We know this virus and the recession will affect our region more profoundly than many other parts of the country. With every week that passes the need to level up becomes more important. Delays will only acerbate the inequalities we see already.”

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, also commented on the plan, he said: “Today’s plan from the Chancellor is welcome and will avoid the worst excesses of viable job losses due to the crisis.

“This will play a critical role in helping many people and businesses across the country but will not be enough to achieve true economic rebalancing, which is key to turning levelling-up into a reality – rather than simply rhetoric.

“More commitment to long-term investments, such as decarbonisation through small modular reactors or transport infrastructure like Northern Powerhouse Rail, will be crucial. Boosting confidence and certainty on projects such as these are necessary to underpin and unlock vital private investment.”