Delay on re-opening a 'hammer blow' to businesses

A screen-grab of Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at a media briefing in Downing Street, Londo

A screen-grab of Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). PA Photo. Picture date: Friday March 20, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: PA Video/PA Wire - Credit: PA

There has been a gloomy response to the government's announcement that Covid restrictions must stay in place for longer than planned.

Claire Walker, Co-Executive Director of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:  “Businesses will be disappointed by this setback to the reopening in England. This delay to the removal of restrictions will come as a hammer blow to those firms who must remain closed, and to those who continue to see their ability to trade severely restricted.

“Many firms have fought incredibly hard to stay afloat throughout the pandemic and are struggling with the damage done to their cashflow and revenue. They are desperate to play their part in the recovery. We must ensure they receive the support, and the clarity, that will give them a chance to do that.

“It would be extraordinary if we saw government retracting support to businesses now, given that some firms will remain unable to fully trade and others effectively forced not to trade at all."

On business support, she said:  “The government must provide further cash grants, at least equivalent to levels provided during the first lockdown, and delay the tapering of government payments into the furlough scheme, planned for the start of July. The government should also consider extending the trade credit reinsurance scheme beyond the end of June to minimise possible disruptions in insurance coverage. 

“Government should work with lenders to ensure that appropriate forbearance is in place for those who have used government lending schemes and already started to repay their loan without being able to open fully. 

“An extension of the VAT deferral scheme and the 100% Business Rates relief for eligible businesses should also be considered given the length of the delay and the impact on hospitality and leisure firms.” 

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On free testing, she said:  “One of the many things businesses need to know is how long free testing will continue for.  

“For reasons of business and employee confidence, as well as public health, Government must guarantee free testing for all for at-least the medium term.” 

Responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement that the final stage of the roadmap will be delayed, Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “As the Prime Minister has stressed, the Delta variant unfortunately remains a serious concern and everyone needs to continue to play their part in ensuring we limit any further transmission.

“Councils, along with their communities, local NHS colleagues and national Government have worked extremely hard to get us to this point. However, it is now clear there is still a short way to go before we can fully exit the recovery roadmap. It is vital that everyone continues to follow local advice to ensure we are all doing everything we possibly can to keep everyone safe.

“This will undoubtedly be disappointing news to businesses within our local communities who have been waiting to open without restrictions for over a year, but it is good that weddings will still be able to go ahead as planned under relaxed rules.

“Councils stand ready to continue to do all they can to support affected businesses through this challenging period. They also have their Local Outbreak Management Plans in place and are helping the national effort in trying to combat further infection, with surge testing and local targeted vaccination planning.

“Working closely with their NHS partners, councils are doing everything they can to help defeat this terrible virus and its variants, and want to get life back to normal for everyone as soon as possible.”

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