The support schemes put in place, including the Job Retention Scheme, have saved many firms and jobs. However, with the UK in a third lockdown many businesses were disappointed by the fact that the current support package is simply not enough to compensate for the severe, on-going, economic impact of the pandemic. It is by no means only retail, leisure and hospitality businesses that are in trouble, with the impact increasingly felt away from the sectors which have been most obviously hit by restrictions. Support must be in place for firms throughout the supply chain and across the economy.
While they understand that the nature of the pandemic means that things can change quickly, the current drip-feed approach to business support measures is too short term and leaves businesses unable to plan. Furthermore, with little chance a full reopening of the economy in the near term, this current approach risks damaging cliff edges for jobs and livelihoods with crucial support measures - including the furlough scheme, Business Rates relief and VAT deferral - currently scheduled to expire in the coming months.
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 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.
The BCC therefore calls on the UK government to set out a clear plan for 2021 – working closely with the devolved administrations - and introduce measures to support business cashflow and protect jobs and livelihoods. Although these proposals form part of our 2021 budget submission, many businesses cannot afford to wait until March.
In addition to these measures, the BCC will soon set out a suite of proposals in advance of the Budget that would provide a boost to the economy and result in the eventual outlay for the UK government being significantly less.
Our Quarterly Economic Survey for Q4 2020 - which received 6,203 responses from firms across the UK between 2 and 26 November 2020 - found that: