BCC President calls on PM for longer-term support for coronavirus-hit firms

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The President of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has written an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for longer-term support for businesses impacted by coronavirus.

In the letter, Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith calls on Boris Johnson to make longer-term plans which will allow companies to plan for the future.

It reads: “At Saturday’s press conference, you said that your Government would do ‘everything it could’ to support businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. I am writing to you today to set out concrete steps you can take to deliver this commitment.

“Businesses feel let down by the Government. From the start, they have responded at pace to your asks of them throughout this crisis, but firms cannot be expected to keep up with constantly shifting goalposts.

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“The schemes you have put in place, in particular the Job Retention Scheme, have saved many firms and jobs so far. However, the current package is simply not enough to compensate for the severe, ongoing economic impact of the pandemic.

“Businesses across the country, and across sectors, are on their knees and many will be spending Christmas making serious decisions about their future. Firms urgently need greater clarity, certainty and stability.

“While they understand that the nature of the pandemic means that things can change quickly, they need a much clearer view of the road ahead, rather than handbrake turn after handbrake turn.

“Although the start of the vaccine roll-out is a very positive step, this crisis is far from over.”

Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith
Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith

It continues: “Based on the responses of over 6,200 businesses, the BCC’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey shows that recovery is not taking place for most firms, and that business conditions are continuing to worsen for almost half of firms surveyed.

“Crucially, the impact is increasingly felt away from the sectors which have been most obviously hit by restrictions. It is by no means only leisure and hospitality businesses that are in trouble.

“Support must be in place for firms throughout their supply chains and across the economy. Businesses cannot afford to wait until the Chancellor’s budget in March and the Government must therefore immediately set out a clear plan for 2021.”

Baroness McGregor-Smith also outlined a number of policy proposals for support to enable businesses to plan with more certainty, including:

· Extend and expand business rates relief

· Increase small business rate relief threshold

· Offer immediate and more significant cash grant support

· Extend deferral on VAT

· Improve access to government lending schemes

· Support for the businesses and individuals excluded from help

The letter concludes: “Long-term, comprehensive support for businesses who will be the backbone of the economic recovery is not an optional extra. Failure to act now will lead to many more businesses shutting up shop for good and will be a waste of the investment Government has already made to keep firms afloat.

“We need businesses to survive and to be ready to power the recovery when the time comes. In short, supporting them now, will pay dividends in the future.”

BusinessLive – West Midlands