Businesses call for transparency on COVID contingency plan
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) says businesses are being left in the dark on the government’s winter COVID contingency plan.
Claire Walker, co-executive director of the BCC, reports that businesses are frustrated by the lack of detail from the government regarding the circumstances that could lead to new restrictions as well as little clarity on what support firms could receive in the colder months.
“Many businesses have adapted and adjusted to keep our economy moving forward. They have been getting on with the job, despite a lack of clarity around guidance which means they are still negotiating a legal minefield,” Ms Walker said.
The particular areas where UK firms are seeking insight include regulations around international travel, and the future of the furlough scheme and other business incentives.
“They desperately want to know what support they will be offered if the worst happens. We would also like to see furlough — and other support measures — put permanently on the shelf so they can be activated if there is a further lockdown,” Ms Walker said.
“It’s a system that is proven to work in Germany and ensures business has the confidence to keep investing. ”
The BCC’s call comes on the heels of a report form trade credit insurer Euler Hermes that found UK small businesses were more likely to fold than their counterparts in Germany and France.
Nearly 17 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses in the UK are at risk of insolvency in the next four years, the report found, compared with 7 per cent of SMEs in Germany and 13 per cent in France.
“We are not asking the government to look into a crystal ball and predict the future in minute detail. We are simply asking that they give businesses the assurance as to what will happen if the pandemic spikes again and that they will not be left behind,” Ms Walker said.
She emphasised that it was also vital that any changes to the UK’s international travel traffic light system are communicated to the aviation industry as soon as possible.
“It remains one of the few sectors unable to fully reopen and government must find additional ways to support it,” she said.
“Our latest economic forecast suggests business investment is falling, and with the new national insurance levy introduced last week, firms need to know there aren’t going to be any more surprises.
“A proper contingency plan should give businesses the confidence they need to move on from just surviving to growing, thriving and leading the way out of the coronavirus crisis.”