Region’s business leaders call for more support as lockdown #3 kicks in


It was inevitable, but business leaders across the region are asking why the government hasn’t announced additional support for affected businesses alongside these new restrictions.

Business West supports businesses across Bristol, Bath, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. Managing Director Phil Smith said: “The lockdowns announced today are a body blow to our business communities, hard on the heels of lost trade during the festive season and uncertainty linked to the end of the Brexit transition period. Tens of thousands of firms are already in a precarious position, and now face a period of further hardship and difficulty.”

Business leaders in Coventry and Warwickshire are also urging the Government to increase support for firms to get them through the devastation of the latest lockdown.

Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: ““As businesses, we understand the need to put health first and we have repeated that message from day one of the crisis, but we also know that for our economy to eventually recover, firms must be given as much support as possible to get through this.

“We would, therefore, strongly urge the Government to announce a new package of realistic support for businesses which addresses the serious cash flow issues so many are experiencing.

Phil added: “Billions have already been spent helping good firms to survive this unprecedented crisis and to save jobs. These businesses must not be allowed to fail now, when the vaccine rollout provides light at the end of this long tunnel. The financial support for businesses needs to be stepped up in line with the devastating restrictions being placed on them. Otherwise, many of these firms may simply not be there to power our recovery when we emerge once again.

“Enhanced support for businesses, a turbo-charged vaccine rollout, and delivery of existing promises on mass testing must be delivered to enable the UK to restart, rebuild and renew.”

The Chamber of Commerce network within the West Midlands have called on the Chancellor to back our businesses and use the £2 billion in returned Covid cash from major retailers to boost the support desperately needed by the hardest hit firms.

Louise added: “While the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of April is welcome, covering the ongoing costs of fixed overheads is still a huge challenge. Urgent support is needed so they can get through to the end of the crisis and help the UK restart, rebuild and renew as quickly as possible.”

British Chambers of Commerce Director General Adam Marshall said: “Businesses will understand why the Prime Minister has felt compelled to act on the spiralling threat to public health, but they will be baffled and disappointed by the fact that he did not announce additional support for affected businesses alongside these new restrictions.

Stephen Phipson, Chief Executive of Make UK, the leading UK support organisation for manufacturers said: “In the face of a renewed national crisis the Prime Minister is right to take these vital measures. This fight is likely to occupy much of the coming year and, just as it has done since the start of the crisis, industry has supported the national effort and will continue to do so.

“In return, it is now critical Government revisits the business support packages. Whilst measures such as the furlough scheme are very welcome, businesses are taking on substantial debt, deferring tax bills, postponing mortgage payments and facing empty order books; this cannot continue indefinitely. In strategic sectors like aviation and automotive tonight’s announcement will further damage already fragile demand.

“The Government must now bring forward a comprehensive plan for the next six months that provides certainty, stability and confidence including targeted support for critical sectors. We must ensure that our great manufacturers can survive the coming challenges and be in a position to help drive the recovery when it comes.”