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Lockdown easing delay prompts calls for financial help from New Forest Business Partnership and Go New Forest

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NEW Forest firms in badly hit sectors will need further financial help from the government in the wake of the lockdown easing being delayed, business leaders have warned.

The hospitality, retail, events and live entertainment sectors face another month of restrictions after the government diverted from its original roadmap of lifting all rules on 21st June. This decision was made following the rapid spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19.

While local chiefs understood the reasons behind the delay, which Prime Minster Boris Johnson said would last until at least 19th July, they said it would have consequences.

The Chewton Glen Hotel is facing staff shortages
The Chewton Glen Hotel is facing staff shortages

Anthony Climpson, chief executive of tourism group Go New Forest, said firms being “able to actually make a profit is ever more problematic the longer restrictions remain”.

He continued: “Ironically, the government’s attempts to soften the blow to weddings is actually making matters worse. The proposed shift outdoors is causing serious conflicts in the quality of the experience, especially for other hotel guests not in the party.

“The cancellation of big corporate bookings in June and July is creating further irreparable holes in revenue streams, with the hotel events and activity sector being particularly hard hit.

“All this ongoing uncertainty is also now having a negative impact on consumer confidence, even on those businesses able to operate with some small measure of normality.”

New Forest Business Partnership chairman Matthew Lawson joined Hampshire Chamber of Trade chief executive Ross McNally and Nicola Bailey – the Federation of Small Businesses development manager for Hampshire and Dorset – to call for more support.

“Whilst we all understand the need for caution, the local economy needs all the support it can get at this challenging time and we hope that government support – as well as good trade from local residents and visitors – will continue for those local businesses that are still affected by restrictions,” Mr Lawson said.

Meanwhile, the luxury Chewton Glen said while it would have to cancel “a small number of events and larger restaurant bookings from more than two households”, it would cope well because of the “staycation phenomena and pent up demand locally”.

But it had still to overcome the challenge of “finding sufficient staff in the aftermath of Brexit”, it said, ahead of a hospitality jobs fair event at Balmer Lawn Hotel, Brockenhurst, on Wednesday 23rd June.

“Our motto has always been recruit for personality and train for skills, and hence if someone has the right can-do attitude and a happy, outgoing demeanour, we would be delighted to hear from them,” a hotel spokesperson said.

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