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A former business leader is urging the government to forget the billions of pounds of pandemic support debt owed by small businesses to ensure that these companies survive.

Bill Grimsey was formerly the head of two DIY chains, Focus DIY and Wickes, as well as the supermarket brand Iceland, and he has called on the government to not pursue small retail firms for repayment of Covid-19 support loans. It is believed that these firms owe a total of around £1.7 billion, and Grimsey is warning that being forced to repay those debts will drive many of them to insolvency.

The former business leader is arguing that borrowing money enabled small UK retail firms to make it through the long pandemic, but that many are simply not in a position to repay this money. He has suggested that a debt forgiveness scheme targeted at those firms that are otherwise strong enough to survive would help prevent widespread collapse within the small business retail sector.

Firms in that position could also benefit from the help of accountants in Goole or elsewhere that specialise in advising small businesses as they look to get back to full financial health.

Grimsey went on to point out that other countries – most notably, France – are already looking at how small businesses can be supported with the pandemic-related debts they face.

He concluded by saying that failure to offer similar help to such companies here could see the retail sector hit by a tidal wave of closures between now and the end of the year.

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