Shropshire Chamber of Commerce is calling on the Government to provide more financial support to businesses facing a bleak future from the debilitating squeeze of coronavirus restrictions.
Cash-strapped businesses need a raft of measures from the Chancellor to support cash flow, according to Shropshire Chamber’s chief executive Richard Sheehan.
- Extending and expanding business rates relief
- Prolonging VAT deferrals
- Offering an immediate, further round of up-front cash grant support – at least equivalent to levels of around £25,000 available in the first national lockdown, with sufficient funds to provide for all businesses that need it in every sector.
More certainty is also needed to help protect jobs by maintaining the Job Retention Scheme, until a full reopening of the economy is possible, and expanding income support for limited company directors, he said.
“Businesses cannot afford to wait until the Chancellor’s budget in March. They need these measures now and a guarantee that support will be available throughout the year so they can plan for more than a few weeks ahead.
“The impact of the pandemic is increasingly being felt away from the sectors which have been most obviously hit by the restrictions, such as hospitality and leisure.”
Mr Sheehan backed the British Chambers of Commerce’s call for the Government to work closely with companies to accelerate the rollout of vaccines - using their space, capacity and people as much as possible.
In the meantime, he said a fit-for-purpose Test, Trace and Isolate system remained critical to keep the economy moving once the current lockdown ends.
Shropshire Chamber’s most recent Quarterly Economic Survey reveals how trading restrictions, lockdowns and growing uncertainties about the future are taking their toll on the county’s economy.
It shows that although the overall economy saw a slight improvement in the final quarter of 2020, Shropshire companies remain hugely concerned over cashflow – and future tax rises.
The survey showed a recovery in both domestic and export sales across Shropshire in the fourth quarter of 2020, but the number of companies expecting UK sales to fall still exceeds those predicting a rise.
More than 60% of companies expect staffing levels to remain the same over the coming months, compared with around 15% which are warning of imminent redundancies.
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 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.”
The BCC, backed by Shropshire Chamber, is calling on the government to:
Protect jobs and livelihoods by:
• Extending the job retention scheme until at least the end of July 2021
• Expanding income protection support for directors of limited companies by extending the self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to cover company dividends as well as PAYE salary
Support business’ cashflow by:
• Extending and expand business rates relief for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors and make available to businesses in more sectors for another 12 months
• Offering immediate and more significant cash grant support at least equivalent to levels of around £25,000 available in the first national lockdown
Keeping the economy moving
• Vaccinate by working closely with companies across the UK to accelerate the rollout of vaccines, using their space, capacity and people as much as possible
• Improve the Test, Trace and Isolate system to keep the economy moving once the current lockdown ends