THE latest billions spent on helping businesses through the pandemic will still only be a “drop in the ocean” for some, the chancellor has been warned.

Rishi Sunak announced a £4.6billion programme of grants for retail, hospitality and leisure.

But Dorset businesses have warned they will need more help than the £9,000 one-off grants being offered to help high streets.

Ian Girling, chief executive of Dorset Chamber, said: “While this immediate cash flow support for business is welcome, it will be a drop in the ocean for some hard-pressed firms.

“We need to see a clear long-term strategy for the whole of 2021. Support must be sufficient to cover not just those on the front line of retail, hospitality and leisure, but also firms in supply chains and wider business communities who are also feeling the devastating impacts of these restrictions.

“The government must set out a long-term plan that allows all businesses of all shapes and sizes to plan, and ultimately stand the best chance of surviving.”

Andy Lennox, of the pressure group Wonky Table – which represents more than 500 Dorset businesses in hospitality and events – said help was needed in the “dark quarter” from January to March.

“We now go into 2021 without the traditional Christmas season reserves yet with the increased debt and costs from the first and second lockdowns, not to mention the losses created by the tier system ultimately culminating in the calamitous closure before New Year’s Eve,” he wrote to the chancellor and Boris Johhnson.

“It needs to be understood by government the whole sector has been running below break-even since reopening in July and the losses have only got greater with every tightening of restrictions since September.”

He added: “The industry is running on fumes and we need help to survive.”

He called for a grant directed at the hospitality industry of at least £7,500 a month, rather than the one-off £9,000 on offer. Businesses should not pay any rates until the pandemic was over, there should be a new loan scheme and existing loans should be extended.

His comments echoed those of Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade group UKHospitality, who said: “While this announcement is most welcome, make no mistake that this is only a sticking plaster for immediate ills – it is not enough to even cover the costs of many businesses and certainly will not underpin longer-term business viability for our sector.”