BUSINESS leaders have welcomed the new package of support for workers - but have said there needs to be a "bold strategy" to halt economic damage in the North East.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has also thanked Chancellor Rishi Sunak for listening to the concerns of traders in the region.

Jonathan Walker, director of policy, North East England Chamber of Commerce said: "We've been clear that previously announced support measures were not sufficient to protect jobs and businesses subject to new restrictions.

"Therefore, we’re pleased that the Chancellor has listened to us and accepted this argument.

“Government has also recognised that we've been under tough restrictions in the North East for many weeks now and the backdating of support will help many struggling businesses.

"However, we are concerned that significant economic damage has already been done. The new support will help going forward, but we still need a bold strategy to ‘level up’ our region to stop Covid from further exacerbating inequalities.

“While we welcome this new financial package, businesses are tired of the constant uncertainty and secrecy surrounding Tier 3 restrictions and negotiations.

"We need sufficient resources locally and an effective test and trace system to tackle Covid outbreaks early, alongside meaningful engagement with the region’s business community.”

Commenting on the announcement made by the Chancellor Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, said:

“Since Middlesbrough and Hartlepool entered local lockdown restrictions earlier this month and more recently the rest of the area, I have been in discussions with government about financial support for businesses, such as our amazing pubs, bars and restaurants, that are affected by lockdown restrictions, but are not required to close by law. So, I am pleased that the government has stepped up to the plate and that Chancellor has outlined a major and generous offer to help firms in Tier 2 areas get through the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Chancellor has delivered unprecedented levels of support during the coronavirus pandemic, most recently pledging to cover two thirds of an employee’s salary who can’t work because a business is required to close, as well as cash grants for those firms legally required to shut in Tier 3 areas.

"He is now going further with a detailed package of financial support to cover businesses in Tier 2 - something firms across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool have been calling for and I am pleased the Chancellor has listened to their concerns and acted.

“The support given to businesses across the region throughout the pandemic has saved hundreds of small and medium sized companies and thousands of jobs. This fresh support for workers and businesses will save even more.

“I will continue to work with our local leaders to protect the health and well-being of local people and provide local support to protect our economy and the livelihoods of everyone in the Tees Valley.”

However, Rishi Sunak was accused by some of ignoring the plight of businesses in the North of England after he unveiled his latest coronavirus support package.

The Chancellor’s promise of additional help for struggling businesses in areas under the Tier 2 controls followed the announcement that London was to be moved into that category.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said that parts of the North had been under those rules for months without extra support.

Giving evidence to the Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, he said the move raised some “troubling” questions.

“I honestly was just open-mouthed really when I read the headlines last night. That there was going to be a support package - billed as being for London and Birmingham,” said Mr Burnham.

“And it was just a case of ‘Hello! We’ve been under these restrictions for three months’.

“Bolton had their pubs closed for three weeks with nothing, absolutely nothing.

“Why do we see London’s issues much more than we see Liverpool’s issues? Greater Manchester’s issues?

“That, I think, is a really troubling question that this committee needs to talk about as part of this.”

Mr Burnham said the decision underlined why his region needed additional support when it moves into the more stringent Tier 3 controls.

His comments were echoed by the Wigan MP and shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy.

“This is incredible,” she tweeted.

“I don’t for a moment begrudge help for London business but this is the same Chancellor who refused to help Greater Manchester as we lived with these restrictions for months and said it was ‘unfair’ to other areas when we asked for help."