Firms across the country face a “desperate situation” because of the coronavirus pandemic and urgently need more help from the Government, a leading business group has warned.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) called on the Chancellor to provide more financial support to businesses facing a “bleak future” from the debilitating squeeze of coronavirus restrictions, adding that they cannot wait until the March Budget.
The BCC said measures should include extending business rates relief, prolonging VAT deferrals and offering an immediate, further round of cash grant support, while more certainty is also needed to help protect jobs and livelihoods by maintaining the Job Retention Scheme until a full reopening of the economy is possible.
The body’s demands have come after its poll of more than 6,000 firms found that all key economic indicators remain well below pre-crisis levels and four in 10 firms have seen their cash flow drop.
Problems are particularly acuts in the hospitality and leisure sectors, it said.
Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC, said: “We have written to the Chancellor to highlight the desperate situation facing thousands of businesses all across the UK.
“The damage inflicted by the pandemic is widespread. It goes far beyond the very visible casualties hit by repeated stop-start lockdowns.
“The support schemes the Government has introduced so far have saved many firms and jobs, but they have not gone far enough to help many survive a tough start to 2021. The drip-feed approach to business support measures has meant many firms simply cannot plan for the future.
“We are urging the Government to urgently adopt a package of measures that covers the whole of 2021, and that takes away the cliff-edges firms face in a few weeks’ time when reliefs, forbearance and furlough are set to end. Many companies simply can’t wait until the March Budget.”
Andy Brown, managing director at Crow Wood Leisure, a health, fitness and leisure complex in east Lancashire, commented: “For every month we’re shut, we currently lose £250,000.
“Our business is not a tap that can be turned on and off at will, nor can it be meaningfully helped by the Government’s one-size-fits-all approach to financial support.”
Ed Hollands, founder and managing director of Driven Media, an advertising company based in Burton-upon-Trent, and part of the #ForgottenLtd campaign group, said: “Since the first lockdown, I’ve only been eligible for a Bounce Back Loan, which wasn’t enough to keep me afloat.
“The Government must understand that closing down businesses in the leisure and hospitality sectors has a knock-on impact on my company’s ability to trade, so we will need more generous grants to survive.
“Ultimately, even if we were to reopen tomorrow, our recovery from the impact of the pandemic will take six months. If the Government wants to kickstart the economy, it must help small businesses and make sure they are around to power our recovery when restrictions can ease.”