RECRUITMENT remains an issue for businesses in Southampton as most return to pre-pandemic levels of trade say bosses.

Since lockdown restrictions eased on July 19, many businesses are said to be reporting sales similar to levels seen in 2019.

The areas Business Improvement District (BID), Go!Southampton, has been in discussion with member businesses as its renewal ballot takes place over the next two months.

It claims that footfall in the retail core is strong and the vacancy rate remains low in comparison to national averages but adds that one main concern for high street businesses is recruitment.

Go!Southampton Executive Director, Giles Semper, said: “We are hearing that recruitment remains a key issue, with plenty of jobs available but not enough people to fill them. Food and Beverage is also performing strongly although recruitment is also an acute issue.

“It’s a massive relief to our members that plans for entry by vaccine passports have been shelved. These ideas were completely untenable.”

As well as recruitment, Hampshire Chamber of Commerce argues that businesses face “high challenges” with reduced footfall and consumer spending as well as disrupted supply chains.

Peter Taylor, Hampshire Chamber Board Director and leader of the Chamber’s Southampton team, said: “With the furlough scheme winding down, the government must remain flexible in other areas of business support.

“We welcome the package of dedicated measures for hospitality but ministers must also ensure the rest of our business community has a continuing lifeline of support. Front and centre should be coordinated investment in skills and infrastructure.”

But Deputy Leader of the council and Cabinet Member for Growth, Cllr Jeremy Moulton, claims the council is “determined to help support economic recovery”.

As part of the council’s response it has delivered over £76.4m in government grants and redistributed £1m in apprenticeship levy funds to SMEs.

As well as this it says it has set out plans to deliver “sustainable growth” through developments such as the Mayflower Quarter and has supported residents with schemes like the 100 in 100 initiative, encouraging businesses to take on more staff.

Daily Echo: Councillor Jeremy Moulton.Councillor Jeremy Moulton.

Cllr Moulton added: “We are all finding ourselves in an unprecedented situation. We don’t know yet about the long-term economic consequences.

“Our support ranges from big initiatives like the Solent Freeport bid which will have long-term benefits for Southampton’s economy, to kick starting the economy in more direct ways by introducing free parking in the evening and on Sundays and abandoning the night time levy.

“Most importantly, we are open to new ways of supporting businesses and getting Southampton moving.”