Agonising wait goes on in Lancashire despite end of lockdown in sight

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Lancashire business leaders today breathed a sigh of relief that many shops will be able to reopen when lockdown ends on December 2.

But there is now an agonising wait until Thursday, when areas will find out which tier they are going to be placed into.

The whole of Lancashire was in Tier 3 before the national lockdown.

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If it remains in Tier 3, under the new system,pubs and restaurants will only be able to offer takeaway and delivery services, while indoor entertainment, hotels and other accommodation will close.

Non-essential shops will be able to reopen - but will Preston remain in Tier 3?Non-essential shops will be able to reopen - but will Preston remain in Tier 3?
Non-essential shops will be able to reopen - but will Preston remain in Tier 3?

That would mean the hospitality industry from Chorley to Preston and Blackpool to Lancaster will take little pleasure from the end of lockdown.

Real ale group CAMRA and other organisations are furious that the hospitality industry appears to have been "picked on" once again.

The Lancashire-headquartered Federation of Small Businesses National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “Many small firms across England will be breathing a sigh of relief to hear that they’ll be able to reopen their doors once again after the second national lockdown.

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"However many will continue to remain anxious as businesses await to discover what tier they will be placed in and the impact that will have on their trading.

“These have been trying and difficult times for so many, and with the festive season upon us it’s never been more important to see trading resume once again."

He added: “For many small businesses the next few weeks should be the busiest period of the entire year, but city centres, towns and high streets have seen footfall collapse, and it’s vital that there is a clear path for recovery.

"So that’s why for whichever tier a small business is placed under, the Government should match this with a strong, proportionate level of support.

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“The announced end of the 10pm curfew will be a welcome one for those especially in the food and drink sector, who traditionally would be seeing their profits soar over the Christmas period. It made no sense to close these safe, well-regulated environments and create crowds of people on the street and on public transport.

"Those pubs forced to serve takeaways and click and collect meals in the strongest tiers will be hard hit by these measures and will struggle to make it through to the New Year.

“Hairdressers and salons too, who have worked hard to ensure they are Covid-safe will be pleased to be able to remain open and continue trading after what has been a tumultuous year for them."

Babs Murphy, Chief Executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said “We are pleased that the Prime Minister has followed our call to give businesses at as much notice as possible of COVID rule changes that will affect them in the lead up to Christmas.

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"In equal measure have called on the Government to assure businesses that these rules will be underpinned by adequate commensurate support and mass testing in the workplace.

“2021 cannot under any circumstances be a repeat of this year, businesses can’t simply be turn on and off like a light switch.

“What businesses are looking for is a plan that keeps them and the economy, open throughout winter and beyond.”

A CAMRA spokesman said: "The Prime Minister has confirmed details of the new Tier system for when lockdown in England ends on December 2nd, and it's not looking good for pubs.

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"This is really unfair. We haven't seen any evidence from the Government that hospitality is the problem, and they haven't announced specific support to get pubs through these restrictions."

Last week the British Chambers of Commerce urged the Government to supply the scientific evidence to justify the restrictions on pubs and restaurants.

Preston City Centre Business Improvement District manager Mark Whittle said he hoped the city would be placed in a lower tier.

He said:"The city’s hospitality venues aren’t calling for hand-outs, they’re pleading to be able to re-open their doors, safely, and to be given the opportunity to trade responsibly, which they had overwhelmingly been doing when restrictions permitted.

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"If the sector is having to deal with yet further restrictive measures, then commensurate support must be provided to them for their survival.

"We continue to call on the government for clarity in their decision making, and evidence that measures to be imposed on the hospitality sector are reasonable and necessary.

"We sincerely hope that the county is placed in the lowest tier, in order that our leisure businesses can re-open, in a safe and secure manner, this Christmas."

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.has said the Government will decide which tier each region is placed in based on “the number of cases” in each area, but particularly the numbers of people aged over 60 testing positive for the virus.

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He told BBC Breakfast that although half the country may be placed in the strictest Tier 3 alert level, this will still allow for more freedoms than the national lockdown currently in place for England.

Mr Shapps added that the Government will “absolutely” be in close contact with local mayors and councillors in England as the country moves from the lockdown to three-tier stage.

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