Coronavirus update: Business Link and South West TUC call for stronger regional response to crisis

March 23, 2020

The South West TUC and Business West, the region’s largest business organisation, have jointly welcomed the latest government measures to tackle the economic and jobs crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

But in a joint statement they slammed the regional response as “too slow . . . fragmented and inconsistent” and called for further coordinated action to support the economy, including help for the self-employed. 

The two bodies have set up a task force and created a website – – to lead the response across the region.

This platform shares practical advice and support, answers queries where it can – and signposts where it can’t – and helps understand the specific issues impacting on business so Business West and the regional TUC can feed back quickly to politicians and officials at a national, city-region and local level.

Friday’s announcement from Chancellor Rishi Sunak included an unprecedented package of measures to ease the plight of businesses and workers.

It came at the end of a week during which the TUC and British Chambers of Commerce – of which Business West is one of the largest and most influential members – had been in direct talks with the Chancellor to convey the size of the economic challenge facing workers and firms and the need for scale, ambition and pace in tackling this emergency. 

In a joint statement, the South West TUC and Business West – which runs BathChamber of Commerce and the Bath & North East Somerset Initiative – said, as the region’s two leading business and union organisations, the were committed to working together with all public bodies in their efforts to mitigate the impact of coronavirus on the West of England economy.

South West TUC regional secretary Nigel Costley, pictured right, and Business West managing director Phil Smith, pictured below, said: “Our shared priority is protecting economic networks in the West of England while this crisis is ongoing. That means doing whatever it takes to keep businesses going and making sure that workers have jobs to go back to once coronavirus is under control.

“We welcome the measures that the government has announced in recent days to support businesses. It is vital now that the details of all announced schemes are clarified and communicated to those businesses who can benefit.

“We know that businesses face immediate and difficult decisions about retention and support of staff and so would call for financial bridging support to be in place by the end of the week to protect jobs.”

The two organisations also said they wanted to see a further ambitious package of economic support, including for workers, including: 

  • Providing wage subsidies for short-time working and temporary layoffs following models that have been introduced across Europe and in other advanced economies.
  • An immediate increase in social security payments and urgent measures to allow immediate access for new claimants for the duration of the crisis.
  • Fully-funded measures to protect parents’ income during the period of school closures.
  • Direct support through HMRC for the self-employed.
  • A regional economic task force between the public and private sectors to deal with the crisis as it unfolds and to rebuild the economy.

“While the scale of the economic challenge is enormous, we believe that the long-standing commitment of employers, trade unions and government to working constructively in social and economic partnership can help to provide effective support to businesses and individuals across the country,” the joint statement continued.

“After central government leadership, we now need co-ordinated action at the regional level to support workers and businesses to access support rapidly.

“Until now, we have witnessed a fragmented and inconsistent response across the region which is just too slow, but businesses and unions working together are doing what they can to assist the economy and our people at this time.”




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