Chancellor Rishi – where are you? – Blowin’ In The Wind?
key update from John Bridge OBE DL

Businesses will understand why the Prime Minister yesterday ( speech here ) felt compelled to act on the spiralling threat to public health, but they will be baffled and disappointed by the fact that he did not announce additional support at the same time for affected businesses alongside these new restrictions. Chancellor Rishi was conspicuous by his absence and silence, very different to previous lockdowns, and quietly issued a press release this morning with additional yet inadequate support once again. Details here

The lockdown announced ( details here ) is a body blow to our business communities, hard on the heels of lost trade during the festive season and uncertainty linked to the end of the Brexit transition period. Tens of thousands of firms are already in a precarious position, and now face a period of further hardship and difficulty.

Billions have already been spent helping good firms to survive this unprecedented crisis and to save jobs. These businesses must not be allowed to fail now, when we are told the vaccine rollout provides light at the end of this long tunnel.

However, the Prime Minister said “By the middle of February, if things go well and with a fair wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups.”

What does in the wind mean? - If something is in the wind, people are talking about it and it may happen, but no one is sure.

Blowin` In The Wind (the lyrics of the song are here ) - is that the strategic thinking that our business community, as well as everybody else, would be expecting from the Prime Minister at this difficult and increasingly challenging time for many.

The Prime Minister needs to clearly set out his overall short and long-term strategy together with the tactical and operational timely implementation of this without delay. The Chancellor then needs to set out a clear business support package for the whole of 2021 - not just until Spring - to help businesses of all shapes and sizes survive this difficult and uncertain year.

The financial support for businesses needs to be stepped up in line with the devastating restrictions being placed on them. Otherwise, many of these firms may simply not be there to power our recovery when we emerge once again.

The government must move away from this drip-feed approach and set out a long-term plan that allows all businesses of all shapes and sizes to plan, and ultimately survive.

Many smaller firms won’t qualify for the full headline amounts set out in the Chancellor’s press release, and will be left struggling to see how this new top-up grant will help them out of their cashflow problems.

Support must be sufficient to cover not just those on the front line of retail, hospitality and leisure, but also firms in supply chains and wider business communities who are also feeling the devastating impacts of these restrictions. And to be absolutely clear on this, it means additional support for businesses who’ve already had some help AND first-time support for the millions who have had none.

We will be actively and urgently continuing to press the government on this key issue at a time when cash flow is critical for many which will include extending the capital repayment holiday on existing loans as well as extending the loan term by the amount of the repayment holiday.

We will also be raising the issue of the Job Retention Bonus (JRB), asking the Chancellor to rethink his position on this and meet his commitment to pay the JRB as planned in early 2021 to assist with cash flow and the costs firms are facing through the lockdown and no fault of their own.

As always we will keep you updated.

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01223 237414 •
Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce
Clifford House • 2 Station Yard • Oakington • CB24 3AH • United Kingdom