NORTH-EAST politicians and business leaders last night welcomed the unprecedented package of measures announced by Chancellor and Richmond MP Rishi Sunak.

Jonathan Walker, assistant director of policy for the North East England Chamber of Commerce, said it is “so important” that businesses are supported in their ability to retain staff. “We know there are many firms in serious difficulty right now and it is extremely urgent that Government’s financial assistance is delivered as soon as possible,” he said.

“There can rarely have been a more pressing need for swift and efficient action to protect our economy.”

Henri Murison, director of Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “The Chancellor has helped businesses up and down the country, with the job retention scheme and enhanced safety net.

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"It is a bold step by helping pay workers’ wages which will prevent hundreds of thousands losing their jobs in the North and will prevent damage which otherwise could have taken a decade or more to repair.”

He added: “We will need to build a recovery for all – and this Chancellor is demonstrating he will be as bold as is required now and throughout this crisis.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “This is unprecedented action in unprecedented times. The Government are doing their bit now we need to do ours. Please continue to follow all of the medical advice and take care of yourselves and families. Keep safe.”

Nationally, Mr Sunak’s support package for jobs was broadly welcomed by both employers’ organisations and trade unions.

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TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it was a “breakthrough” and praised the Chancellor for showing “real leadership”. “We’re glad he’s listened to unions and taken vital steps to support working families,” she said. “Employers can now be confident they’ll be able to pay their wage bills. They must urgently reassure staff that their jobs are safe.”

British Chambers of Commerce director general Adam Marshall said it would provide “desperately needed breathing room” for businesses. “The Government now needs to go foot-to-floor to ensure that details of the job retention scheme and loan guarantees reach firms on the ground as soon as possible,” he said.