Roadmap for reopening in England -
Where is the clarity for business?
key update from John Bridge OBE DL
Having clarity about the future intention for business is not incompatible with the staged approach to lockdown release as set out by the Prime Minister (PM) yesterday.
Just as the PM said his strategy is to focus on Data and not Dates, business in the same way desperately needs a key strategic focus on Facts and not Possibilities. The PM also clearly stated he was prioritising 'Certainty over Urgency' which is also the priority of business in requiring certainty urgently for which there is no real clarity currently either practically due to the 4 Tests or financially.
It is therefore most disappointing that despite the very strong signals the clarity that businesses so desperately need about financial support going forward will not be forthcoming until the Chancellor’s Budget on 3 March.
Businesses will hold the PM to his pledge to support firms for the duration of the pandemic, as this gruelling marathon nears its end. Businesses have haemorrhaged billions of pounds over the past year and need action now.
Even with the PM’s new roadmap, the future of thousands of firms and millions of jobs still hangs by a thread and many will find it challenging to have to wait until 3 March before making vital decisions.
Many hard-hit businesses simply don’t have the cash reserves needed to hold out for several more weeks or months before they are allowed to reopen.
Our message to the Chancellor is that all the key support schemes for businesses should be extended - through the summer and wherever possible throughout 2021 - to ensure that as many viable firms as possible can make it to the finish line and recover.
It is of course helpful that many businesses can now see a potential path to restart and recovery. Absolute clarity and honesty will be needed every step of the way over the weeks ahead, so that businesses have a fighting chance to rebuild. The stop-start dynamic of the past year, which has so damaged businesses and communities, must come to an end.
It is also critical that alongside the roadmap to recovery the pace of the vaccination programme and workplace testing is expanded to businesses of all sizes and continued for as long as is necessary - to help keep our companies and communities open over the months ahead.
The safe restart of international travel is critical to UK trade, to hundreds of thousands of UK jobs, and to the prospects for a Global Britain. Companies want hard answers and a coordinated international approach agreed as soon as possible.
The long wait continues for some businesses of critical importance to our local economy, including events. The task forces convened to look at how to reopen these sectors must deliver results quickly to provide the certainty they so desperately need.
We await the Chancellor’s pronouncements with baited breath!
The "4 TESTS" before taking each step can be found here.
A brief summary of the “4 STEPS” announced by the PM can be found here.
The full “COVID-19 RESPONSE − SPRING 2021” document can be accessed here.