Coronavirus: British businesses plead for extra support in open letter to PM

Saleha Riaz
·2 min read
“Businesses across the country, and across sectors, are on their knees and many will be spending Christmas making serious decisions about their future,” businesses said in an open letter.
“Businesses across the country, and across sectors, are on their knees and many will be spending Christmas making serious decisions about their future,” businesses said in an open letter.

The British Chambers of Commerce wrote an open letter to prime minister Boris Johnson asking for longer-term support for businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

It acknowledged that the government’s support so far, in particular the Job Retention Scheme, has saved many firms and jobs so far but noted “the current package is simply not enough to compensate for the severe, on-going economic impact of the pandemic.”

It said businesses have felt let down by the government even though they have responded to government rules throughout this crisis.

“Businesses across the country, and across sectors, are on their knees and many will be spending Christmas making serious decisions about their future,” it said, adding that “firms cannot be expected to keep up with constantly shifting goalposts.”

The letter made several policy proposals. It said the 100% business rates discount for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England for 2020 - 2021 should be extended to all businesses whose ability to generate revenues are severely impaired, whether they are mandated to be closed or not.

It also said the small business rate relief threshold should be increased to ensure that all small businesses have access to the grant support and relief on business rates no matter where they are located.

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Another recommendation improved access to government lending schemes for businesses.

It also said the government must redouble efforts to fix the test, trace and isolate system, providing greater incentives for people to isolate when necessary and enable consumers and workers to safely return to workplaces and high streets, which will give businesses a much-needed boost.

The organisation said the support it is asking for “is not an optional extra” and warned that “failure to act now will lead to many more businesses shutting up shop for good and will be a waste of the investment he government has already made to keep firms afloat.”

The British Chambers of Commerce is made up of 53 Accredited Chambers which represent tens of thousands of businesses, employing around six million people across the UK.

The pandemic has taken a toll on many UK businesses, including those in the retail and travel sector, amid lockdown restrictions.

While they may have expected some relief over the holiday period, when restrictions were meant to ease, Johnson’s announcement over the weekend that rules were going to be tightened again will hurt them once more.

On Saturday, Johnson announced stricter coronavirus measures in London, the South East and East of England amid concerns about the spread of the mutant strain of coronavirus.

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