Commenting on the introduction of ‘Tier 4’ of Coronavirus restrictions in England, with many businesses once again forced to close their doors from 20th December, BCC Director General Adam Marshall said:
“Christmas was already cancelled for many businesses, but even more will now suffer as a result of this last-minute decision.
“While Government must act on public health concerns, it must also address the economic consequences of its actions. Will there be more help for firms being forced to shut their doors - and for those who have paid for stock they now can’t sell? What support will there be for companies whose cash flow projections have once again been thrown into chaos?
“The introduction of an additional tier without warning or additional help is a huge blow to businesspeople who wanted nothing more than to be able to trade safely through the holiday season and beyond.
“It is clear ministers across all four nations are now considering even tougher measures. With huge numbers of firms already on the edge, it would be unconscionable for further restrictions or closures to be announced without a more comprehensive package of support in place that gives businesses the confidence that ministers will stand by them through an uncertain year ahead.”
Back in September, the Chamber Network set out five tests for how Government tackles the ongoing crisis. Here is an assessment of those tests based on the latest announcement:
Evidence: It is clear from the rising rate of infections and pressure on hospitals that Government needs to do more to address the public health emergency but businesses are yet to understand the rationale behind closing businesses, such as hairdressers and gyms, that have implemented Government safer working guidance.
Clarity: Constant chopping and changing has left many businesses and their customers confused about how the rules apply.
Support: While this week's extensions to the Job Retention and business interruption loan schemes were sensible, what would be better is a long-term plan for business support - to provide a clear foundation for affected firms throughout 2021. Business cash flow must be supported during this difficult time to enable firms to survive and power our eventual recovery.
Testing: Significant improvements to the test, track and isolate system are essential if we are to have a functioning economy. Government should take concrete action to ensure that more people are tested more quickly, and that more people isolate when required.
Exit strategy: The last-minute addition of a new tier and constant moving goal posts makes it impossible for businesses to plan ahead with any degree of confidence. Government need to set out an approach that provides more stability and clarity for business.