Business groups call for more support for firms as Johnson unveils roadmap out of lockdown

February 22, 2021

The South West’s largest business organisation has said many of its members will be “disappointed” with the government’s roadmap for taking England out of national lockdown.

Business West, which runs Bath Chamber of Commerce, said following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement in the House of Commons on Monday the onus was now on ministers to ensure measures were in place to support firms over the next few months. 

Managing director Phil Smith, pictured, said of the plan: “It certainly does not give many of them real hope of surviving the next few months – particularly in the hospitality sector where so many restaurants and nightclubs will not be open until June.”

However, the CBI, which counts many of the South West’s largest companies as members, was more upbeat, saying the roadmap offered hope that the country could get back to business in the coming months.

Under the proposals, all non-essential shops will not be able to open until at least April 12.

Restaurants and pub gardens will be allowed to serve customers sitting outdoors from the same day, including selling alcohol.

Indoor entertainment such as cinemas will not be able to open until at least May 17, with performances and large events able to resume from the same date with some limits on attendances.

Mr Smith said it was now vital that Chancellor Rishi Sunak introduced support for hospitality businesses in particular in his Budget next Wednesday.

“We must now have a meaningful extension to the furlough scheme, perhaps with some training and re-training commitments included,” he said

“I have to say that I am hopeful this support will be forthcoming from the Treasury as the Prime Minister promised business: ‘We will not pull the rug out’.

“That gives struggling companies some hope that they can hang on with further furlough support. We also hope that Rishi Sunak can also extend the business rates holiday for companies.”

He also said that the return to school of all children on March 8 would be a huge boost for their employees, who have had the difficult burden of home schooling. 

“What we saw today was a cautious Prime Minister who was intent on not falling into the trap of overpromising and not delivering,” he added.

CBI South West director Deborah Fraser, pictured, described the roadmap as “a good starting point to the hard yards ahead and caution is rightly the watchword”.

She added that businesses in the South West backed the step-by-step approach to re-opening and an end to damaging stop-start restrictions, while getting children back into the classroom first was as much a priority for business as it was for families across the country.

“We now need to turn this roadmap into genuine economic momentum. The Budget is the second half of this announcement – extending business support in parallel to restrictions will give firms a bridge to the other side,” she said.

“This is particularly needed for sectors that will have to wait for up to three months to re-open and have an anxious 10 days ahead before the Budget.”

Meanwhile, businesses were committed to working with government to refresh practical guidance for firms and to fast-track the roll out of tests in workplaces in the months ahead, she said.

“With good news coming every day on the vaccines, the roadmap offers a pragmatic and safe route out of lockdown in England. South West businesses will play their full part in doing so with public health in mind and the confidence to kickstart a recovery.”


Comments are closed.


Reach tens of thousands of senior business people across the Bath area for just £75 a month. Email for more information.