THE government's plans to prop up the economy through a winter where coronavirus restrictions will continue have been welcomed as a 'lifeline' by Oxfordshire businesses.

Today, the chancellor Rishi Sunak made a statement on his winter economic plan, a series of measures which will help businesses across the UK to weather the economic downturn through the colder months of 2020.

Among the measures announced was the successor to the furlough scheme, called the Job Support Scheme, and a continued tax reduction for goods bought and sold by businesses in the hospitality and tourism sectors.

The Government's new plans are a welcome boon to arts, entertainment and tourism businesses in Oxfordshire, but they have also sounded a note of caution about what happens when some of the support ends next year.

ALSO READ: Oxford University to abolish a controversial fee

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced earlier this week that newly introduced restrictions to limit the spread of Covid are going to be in place for six months.

To steer the economy through this period, the chancellor announced a replacement scheme for furlough where the Government tops up wages of employees working reduced hours, alongside extensions to support loans for businesses, grants for the self employed, and a VAT cut for hospitality and tourism businesses until the end of March 2021.

In Oxfordshire, businesses in the arts and tourism, which are facing a longer downturn than others, welcomed the support.

Louise Chantal of the Oxford Playhouse said the wage subsidy was a 'lifeline' for staff, who had already been working at a reduced rate to help reopen the theatre.

She added: "It will allow us to keep our experienced and dedicated staff but at the same time be flexible with our working structure so we are able to keep costs down."

Herald Series:

The Oxford Playhouse, lit up red during July to draw attention to the financial crisis theatres are facing

The theatre is due to operate a reduced programme of events from October, with seating reduced from a capacity of 640 to 170.

And Hayley Beer-Gamage, chief executive of local tourism promoter Experience Oxfordshire, said: "I think it is positive that the chancellor recognises that tourism and hospitality have been some of the hardest hit sectors."

She welcomed the continued VAT cut, but said it was up to businesses whether or not they past reduced costs on to customers.

Ms Beer Gamage added: "There is a big question about what happens after the measures end but let's see what happens then."

ALSO READ: 'Oxfordshire tourism industry will not recover from coronavirus until 2024'

Earlier this week, Chancellor Mr Sunak announced he was cancelling the usual autumn budget this year in order to manage the crisis caused by Covid.

Oxford East's Labour MP, Anneliese Dodds welcomed the new measures but described them as an 'eleventh hour' U-Turn, as the furlough scheme is due to end in October.

Herald Series:

Anneliese Dodds speaking at the Labour Party conference earlier this week

Ms Dodds, who is the shadow chancellor, added: "I know from speaking to businesses in Oxford that this delay has affected confidence and decisions they have made.

"Worryingly, it looks like the wage support scheme may not incentivise employers to keep employees on beyond January. So on this and other issues, I would urge the Chancellor to work with me, businesses and trade unions to develop a longer-term approach."

ALSO READ: Oxfordshire to launch own Covid contact tracing system

The city's other MP, Layla Moran, said she had hoped the original furlough scheme could have continued.

Ms Moran, the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon said: "I've been absolutely clear that the furlough scheme must continue. The danger of mass unemployment is very real and we can't pull back support before the economy has recovered.

"The cancellation of a full autumn budget is really concerning. My constituents are really anxious about their future, and we need a long-term economic plan from government."