A COLCHESTER firm fears it will not survive the coronavirus pandemic if it does not get support from the Government.

Universal Image Systems, based on the Severalls business park, works in the exhibition sector producing graphics, displays and stands for firms worldwide.

But business began to dry up in February as fears about the virus saw events cancelled.

As a result boss Austin McKinlay furloughed his eight employees.

Mr McKinlay believed the Government and Chancellor Rishi Sunak would help the sector with a business rates holiday and grants.

But after approaching Colchester Council he was told his business did not meet the criteria.

He said: “Our sector was one of the first to take a hit.

“We won’t be back for potentially nine to 12 months or maybe until after a vaccine.

“We have got no business coming in. The future for us is really uncertain.

“I’m working trying to think of ideas to diversify to survive.

“Forcing me to pay business rates is going to take away money to use.”

A spokesman for Colchester Council said Mr McKinlay’s business does not meet the criteria set by Government for the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant. He said: “The guidance is based around various business types, which must be wholly or mainly retail for visiting members of the public.

“There are many businesses which sell products both within and beyond the UK but simply selling goods does not necessarily mean that the business premises can be considered retail. A business premises that is predominantly used for the production and printing of materials would be considered as warehouse premises.”

Adrian Pritchard, the council’s chief executive, added: “We do feel for Mr McKinlay under the present circumstances, just as we do for many businesses who do not qualify for this particular grant.

“The Chancellor has made a range of other financial support available for other businesses, which his company would need to consider.”

A Treasury spokesman said: “We’ve taken unprecedented action to get through this economic emergency and our support package is one of the most comprehensive and generous in the world.For small businesses this support includes our bounce back loans which provide quick and easy support that is interest free for the first 12 months, as well as our coronavirus job retention scheme and other measures such as VAT deferrals and protection against eviction.”