Calls for lockdown support to go 'much, much further'
- Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN
A Suffolk business leader is calling on the government to "go much, much further" in its support for firms throughout 2021.
This morning chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £4.6billion package of support for businesses affected by the latest lockdown.
As part of this package retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will be able to access one-off grants of up to £9,000.
But Paul Simon, head of communications and policy at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, called for the government to provide a "New Deal for Business".
He said: "Suffolk’s business community is crying out for the government to get a strategic grip on the Covid-19 pandemic and its devastating economic and social consequences.
“Today’s £4bn support package announced by Rishi Sunak will certainly go some way to reducing the full impact of the new lockdown on businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in the short-term.
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“But Suffolk Chamber wants the government to go much, much further and take a far more strategic and planned approach to business support across 2021, alongside a sustained step change in the rollout of the vaccines.
“It is vital that the government now articulates its full programme of support for the next 12 months, including a budget which reboots how and when firms pay tax so as to boost and not penalise long-term risk-taking and growth.
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“As the year progresses, we want to see a longer-term pivot in that support from assisting sectors that are in particular distress to a programme that also boosts the growth of emerging sectors, such as renewable energy, the land-based economy and broadband and digital connectivity businesses.
"This must include a nationals skills programme, based on the British Chambers of Commerce’s Workplace Training & Development Commission recommendations aimed at giving existing workers the opportunities to reskill and adapt to the accelerated pace of change that will be the hallmark of future decades.
“In short, a New Deal for Business is required. Suffolk Chamber and its members are ready and willing to help develop and influence that fundamental realignment.”
Andrew Mower, development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses in East Anglia, also cautioned that the cash would not be enough to save some small businesses.
He said: "It just won't be enough for the many businesses who are already under the cosh and on the brink after a disappointing festive period.
"There remain too many groups who need more support to weather this storm such as the newly self-employed, those in supply chains and company directors.
"We continue to call for a Directors Income Support Scheme, mirroring the Self Employed Support Scheme, in the form of a taxable grant for directors of limited companies calculated at 80% of three months average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment and capped at £7,500.
"We also need to see the government make clear its plans for more finance capabilities made available to those who have used their allocations through Bounce Bank Loans as well as extending the period before repayments begin."
David Burch, director of policy at Essex Chambers of Commerce, said: “It is disappointing but perhaps understandable that we have had to enter another period of lockdown, though the arrival of a two vaccines offer hope for the future and we look forward to seeing them rolled out as a matter of urgency.
"Despite receiving government support many businesses, especially smaller ones who are not deemed essential, are in a precarious position from previous lockdowns and we are concerned that some of them will not survive long term.
"We hope people will comply with the government’s regulations so that we can come out of this situation sooner rather than later but in the meantime if people are able to support local businesses online we would urge them to do so.”