Local MP, Maria Miller, met high street business owners in Basingstoke’s top of town to talk about the impact of the ongoing pandemic on their trade. Cllr Arun Mummalaneni and Cllr Sam Jeans, who represent the Brookvale and Kings Furlong ward, organised for Maria to meet local businesses as additional measures came in to reduce the spread of the new Omicron variant.
Maria said: “Speaking to business it's clear many, especially hospitality and retail, are seeing reduced footfall in the run up to Christmas as a result of the new Omicron variant. The top of town remains vibrant because of the number of new businesses, keeping people positive for the future. But I will be writing to the Chancellor, to raise the concerns local businesses have highlighted to me, to urge him to do everything possible to ensure that Basingstoke business can weather this next wave of the virus.
"During the pandemic Basingstoke business received its share of more that £200 billion worth of covid support measures. Meeting business I have highlighted that a number of support measures are still in place, such as the Recovery Loan Scheme, which has been extended until June 2022, and a 50 per cent business rates discount for companies in retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors for the year 2022-23. But many voiced their concern about ensuring measures are tailored to small business and that help on cashflow is considered.
"It is understandable that residents are cautious about the new Omicron variant and this has impacted on footfall in the top of town. It is vital that we all take up the covid booster vaccines, to enhance our protection against the virus and thereby give us greater freedom and confidence for activities such as shopping and eating out going forward. It is great news that a further covid vaccine centre has opened at Basingstoke Hospital, and I would encourage everyone to book to get boosted as soon as they are eligible.”
Cllr Mummalaneni said: “I invited Maria to a walk around town to meet businesses in the run up to Christmas because of the importance of the centre of town to Basingstoke. This should be the busiest time of year for many of our shops and restaurants, yet they are concerned about the new Omicron variant affecting levels of custom. Shops, cafes and restaurants are all set up to be Covid safe and I hope people will feel confident to come out and enjoy the run up to Christmas”
Cllr Jeans said: “It is important we do all that we can to help small businesses in Basingstoke so as to keep the town vibrant and an attractive place to live and work. Everyone has gone to great lengths to support local business throughout the pandemic, and I want that effort to be maintained as we tackle the new variant.”