Yorkshire Budget special: The York family and Dales hotel owner waiting with trepidation after a challenging year

Tucked away on a street close to York Racecourse, Andy and Alice Little’s terraced house has been a place of both sanctuary and anxiety for the past 11 months.

Andy and Alice Little with their son Jesse

Like millions of people across the country, the couple have been confined to their home for months on end, as the Government’s stringent restrictions to contain the spread of coronavirus have remained in force.

But with the announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week of how the nation will emerge from the latest lockdown, they are hopeful that life will begin to return to some degree of normality in the weeks and months to come.

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Mr Little, 31, whose 10-year career as a freelance film-maker has come to a juddering halt amid the Covid-19 crisis, said: “It really has been so tough for so many people, and we have seen our lives literally put on hold for the past 11 months.

“Without the support from the Government, we simply would not have been able to cope. We feel as though we are among the lucky ones, as we have both managed to secure a grant to help see us through.

“But a lot of friends have not been in such a fortunate position, and they have had no money coming in. I know people who have suffered from depression because of all that is going on, which is so tough to hear.”

Mr and Mrs Little, who have a 22-month-old son, Jesse, will be watching closely when Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveils his hugely-anticipated Budget on Wednesday, and how the UK’s fractured economy can begin to be rebuilt in the wake of coronavirus.

Both their careers have been put on hold, with Mrs Little’s job as a freelance wedding photographer also being dramatically affected, with only a handful of jobs being booked since the first national lockdown was announced on March 23 last year.

Following one of the few wedding shoots she was able to attend in West Yorkshire in October last year, Mrs Little was informed that one of the guests had subsequently tested positive for coronavirus.

Mr Little said: “Fortunately we both tested negative ourselves, but it did make you question whether it was safe to carry on working.

“For both of us we have to meet people face-to-face in our jobs, and with infection rates so high, it has been a very nervous time.

“There is hope that things will begin to get better soon, and there is a lifting of spirits for everyone.

“But there are still worries, I am not sure what the Chancellor will announce as far as taxation is concerned to help pay for all the money that the Government has paid out.

“If things also do not go according to plan with the easing of restrictions, that is another huge concern. There is a hint that work might be coming back, but if it doesn’t, it will be a very difficult time without the Government’s support.”

The seismic effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the hospitality sector has been well-documented, and Mr Sunak has faced repeated calls to extend the Government’s support to prevent a predicted wave of redundancies when the furlough scheme is due to end in April.

In Upper Swaledale, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the grand architecture of the Burgoyne Hotel has stood next to the village green in Reeth since the building was constructed in 1783.

The luxury hotel’s owner, Ian Hewitt, has been faced with the difficult decision of furloughing the business’s 16 staff whenever the national lockdowns have been imposed.

The hotel will be able to re-open its doors from May 17 under the Government’s plans to ease the current restrictions, meaning half of one of the business’s most profitable months of the year will be lost.

Mr Hewitt, who bought the Georgian country house in March 2018, told The Yorkshire Post that the package of financial support from the Government had been invaluable to ensuring the hotel remains a going concern.

But he said: “For us, May and August are our busiest months, far more so than Christmas. With half of May being lost until we are able to re-open, this will undoubtedly have a big impact.

“I am fully supportive of what the Government is trying to do, but if we were able to open those few weeks earlier, it would make a profound difference.

“The fact we will not be opening until mid-May means that I am expecting profits will be wiped out for this year.

“We will be able to survive for the next few months, but if lockdowns were to continue, the business would not be here.”

Mr Hewitt, who was raised in Sheffield before embarking on a successful career in the oil industry, urged Mr Sunak to continue with the VAT relief on soft drinks and food past the April cut-off point.

He also said the business rates relief had been invaluable to ensuring the Burgoyne Hotel has survived the economic fall-out of the coronavirus crisis.

Like much of the tourism sector since Monday’s announcement of the Government’s road map out of the lockdown, the Burgoyne Hotel has been inundated with inquiries.

In the first 24 hours after Mr Johnson revealed details for the plan to ease restrictions, 30 bookings were taken. A normal day would see an average of three or four bookings.

Mr Hewitt, who lives near Shaftesbury in Dorset but travels to Reeth for several days each month, has made a huge effort to ensure that the hotel is staffed by a local workforce.

All 16 members of staff come from Reeth, or nearby Catterick Garrison and Richmond.

He said: “I have always wanted the Burgoyne to be at the heart of the community, whether that be the workforce or the customers.

“People have been locked down for so long, that there is a hope that they will be very keen to get out and spend money.

“But the one thing I would say is that if people don’t use local businesses like the Burgoyne, they will lose them forever.”

The devastating economic blow which has been caused by the pandemic has been accentuated as businesses have had to contend with the impact of the UK leaving the European Union at the same time.

Coping with falling revenues caused by the pandemic while trying to adapt to new international trade links has been among the most trying periods of his 30-year career in engineering, according to Andrew Peace.

The managing director of Advanced Actuators, an engineering firm based in Silsden, West Yorkshire, which makes hydraulic components, admitted that Brexit had impacted the company to an even greater extent than coronavirus.

A contract worth £750,000 was lost in October after a client in Germany decided they could not progress with it amid the looming threat of a no deal exit for the UK from the EU.

Mr Peace, who was appointed as the company’s managing director on July 1 last year, said: “It has certainly been a tough year, but we have adapted and managed to keep operating throughout the pandemic.

“Levels of activity definitely slowed down during March and July, but we have coped. We are expecting turnover and profits to be down by about 20 per cent for this financial year, which is far better than we would have hoped for at the start of the pandemic.”

About a third of the 27 staff at Advanced Actuators had to be furloughed, but the full workforce had returned by August last year as business began to pick up again.

The company, which was established in 1969, relies heavily on the international market, exporting across the globe to Europe, India, the Far East and Middle East with clients in the oil and gas industries as well as the power and nuclear sectors.

Mr Peace urged the Chancellor to pursue a phased reduction in the Government’s support to businesses, and also to encourage inward investment in the UK’s economy.

His company has made a major play to do business with enterprise in the UK, and has about 100 suppliers with two-thirds of those businesses located in North and West Yorkshire, and only about five per cent abroad on the Continent.

Mr Peace said: “There is no short-term fix to the situation we are in, but hiking up taxes is certainly not the answer.

“This is about the long game, it is about rebuilding the economy and encouraging businesses to trade within the UK.

“It has been tough for the Government, and I am pleased that this is a more considered approach to easing the restrictions.

“But the one thing we simply cannot have is another lockdown. Lessons have to be learnt to make sure we can look to the future with some degree of certainty.”