HUNDREDS of Chester city businesses are ‘at the point of collapse’ due to coronavirus restrictions preventing people in neighbouring counties visiting – and the Government not providing financial compensation.
The city’s business community is pleading for extra support from the Government after suffering a lack of trade due to neighbouring counties being put in lockdown.
Cheshire west is currently subject to ‘tier 2’ lockdown measures, which prevent people socialising with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting.
But people in the nearby Liverpool City Region are in the highest ‘tier 3’ lockdown measures for England, preventing people travelling in or out the area without a reasonable excuse, such as work, care or shopping for essentials at a nearby supermarket just over the border.
The same restriction applies to people in Flintshire and Wrexham.
That means Chester city centre will not have shoppers from Flintshire, Wrexham or the Liverpool City Region, which includes Wirral and Halton.
As a result the city’s business improvement district, with full endorsement from both Chester Business Club and Chester Growth Partnership, has written to City of Chester MP Chris Matheson to request support for a ‘perfect storm’ of destruction to city centre businesses created by Covid restrictions on the city’s surrounding hinterlands.
An emergency meeting between Chester BID, the Local Enterprise Partnership and representatives from the city’s business district has led to a request to the Labour MP, who is currently self-isolating having tested positive for coronavirus himself, to bring Chester’s exceptional circumstances to government attention as a matter of urgency.
While the Conservative Government did provide councils across the UK with a relief fund for businesses to apply for thousands of pounds during the initial lockdown, extra financial support has been hard to come by as the second wave’s restrictions have tightened.
The letter outlines the need for funding from the government in recognition of Chester’s unique geographical position between Wales and Merseyside, both of which have Covid-related travel restrictions in place.
It says the threat to businesses of their core customer base being stripped away is crippling and business owners warn of imminent closures and job losses.
CH1ChesterBID is asking Labour MP Chris Matheson to support the city in securing funding that represents its position as a tier 2 city trapped within tier 3 and Welsh restrictions.
The letter says:
“Following an emergency meeting this morning with both the LEP and many of our hospitality and retail businesses around the city, we are writing to you, with support from both Chester Business Club and the Chester Growth Partnership, with some urgency, to ask for your kind help and guidance in requesting the support Chester deserves and needs at this crucial time.
“We need the city’s profile raising within government; and for government to understand the contributing factors that have led Chester to become the ‘perfect storm’ for Covid fallout.
“As you are well aware Chester’s retail and hospitality markets are predominantly North Wales and Merseyside.
“The separate decisions taken to by the Welsh Government to ‘lock down’ North Wales and the English government to put Merseyside into Tier 3 has collectively meant that Chester has lost this retail and hospitality market hinterland almost completely over the last week.
“Declines in business ranging from 40%-60% are common. In one 24-hour period one hotelier had 3,000 cancelled bookings.
“Chester has therefore become a Tier 2 city suffering from Tier 3 problems because it is trapped in the geographic pocket between Wales and North West restrictions.
“Effectively we are now bound by Tier 3 restrictions but with no Tier 3 support – arguably a unique predicament. Unlike these other regions, we have currently no prospect of getting adequate support for our businesses.
“We would plead that you highlight this problem with government urgently, as our local business are in real risk of terminal decline.
“We understand the rationale of these decisions taken independently in Cardiff and London – however, the combination of these two decisions has been catastrophic for Chester. Chester’s situation is unique – created by the two respective administrations in Cardiff and Westminster.
“We now know of hundreds of businesses in the city at the point of collapse, putting jobs and the livelihood of thousands of people at stake.
“We understand that Cheshire West and Chester Council have approached the government for financial support but have received no response. Mismatched responses from England and Wales have contributed to this problem.
“We are being told by the businesses of Chester that see this as disregard for the city, its businesses and its residents.
“Our job is to highlight their concerns, champion their cause and amplify their voice. The danger is that by default, Chester continues in a limbo of no business and no support.
“Whether this is through a lack of co-ordination, lack of thought or a simple lack of understanding of Chester’s unmatched position, we are stuck.
“We are working as the BID, with the Chester Growth Partnership, the Chester Business Club, with Cheshire West and Chester Council and our LEP and most importantly as a collective of diverse private businesses to mitigate this impact and keep our businesses afloat and maintain Chester as a viable destination – however, we need your help and support.
“An urgent discussion over the next couple of days is required as I’m afraid we will experience a domino effect of business closures. Could you help us find the support we need in getting our city’s message through to government?”