Boris Johnson
Image Source: Steve Nimmons
In yesterday's press conference, PM Boris Johnson advised people to work from home, and to stay away from social areas such as pubs, restaurants and theatres.
Chloe Shakesby

Coronavirus measures: the business community reacts to the PM's advice

In yesterday’s press conference, the Prime Minister made further recommendations for the public to tackle the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Boris Johnson advised people to work from home, and to stay away from social areas such as pubs, restaurants and theatres.

The business community has reacted to these measures, with some saying that not enough is being done to safeguard companies whose sales will fall due to social distancing.

Kate Nicholls,Hospitality UK

“This announcement will lead to thousands of businesses closing their doors for good, and hundreds of thousands of job losses.

“Over the past few weeks the industry has suffered unprecedented drops in visits and many business are already on their knees.

“This latest advice leaves the industry in limbo, with no recourse to insurance.

“The government must act now to stop them going under and protect the people’s jobs.”

Michelle Ovens MBE, Small Business Britain

“While financial aid goes some way to assisting businesses, there is a need for ongoing business support in areas such as financial planning, business resilience, marketing, strategic planning and digital skills.

“One of the most important things any small business can do right now is to ensure they have the adequate skills to move aspects of their operations online; this may well be the key to preventing job losses and ensuring customers remain engaged with their products and services over the coming months.”

OakNorth Bank

“The British Business Bank’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme announced in last week’s Budget is insufficient for two key reasons: it is not available to new entrants and none of the criteria has been changed from the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme.

“For this scheme to have the desired impact it needs to be available for all SME loans up to £2m, not just £1.25m, it should be based on relaxed eligibility criteria which enables quick drawdown […and] it should be open to banks such as OakNorth Bank, which has in its four and a half years of existence, clearly demonstrated its support for SMEs.

“This scheme needs to be deployed this week as businesses are running out of time - as Hospitality UK (which represents restaurants, hotels and bars) warned this morning, the hospitality and leisure industry is “four to six weeks away from running out of cash” and the country is facing “hundreds of thousands of redundancies” without urgent action.

“To stop British companies failing in the next few months the government should revise the SME Capital discount, enabling more lending now, […]and immediately review the existing SME capital discount, which was introduced after the financial crisis to free up regulatory capital and improve lending conditions.”

John Webber, Colliers International

“We are in constant dialogue with our clients who are strong companies- but with footfall in retail centres ’falling off a cliff ’ and the hospitality sector seeing similar drops in trade, it is ridiculous that such large amounts of cash are being paid to the public purse when it could be used to safeguard jobs over the coming month .

“[A] three-month rate deferment would at least give businesses some breathing space to maintain their cash flow.”

“Given that we could be seeing one of the worst pandemics in our life time, with a devastating resulting economic impact as shoppers keep away from stores and restaurants, warehousing for imported goods stay empty and increasingly office staff stay at home, the government must introduce some emergency measures to support a wider section of business than it is currently proposing.”

“The economic turmoil we are starting to see across the global economy and indeed our own economy, means we need to prepare for the impact as Covid-19 spreads.

“The government can’t just support one section of our economy.

“It must look at wider measures to help all businesses, or the consequences of more administrations and job losses looks certain to continue.”

“We are facing an ‘Economic Battle of Britain’. If he really wants to follow in the footsteps of our wartime leader then he must prove it.”

Tim Martin, Wetherspoon chairman

“I believe the government will make a tactical error in resorting to de facto “lockdown”.

“The Dutch position of frankly admitting that most people will get the virus, while protecting the elderly and sick, thereby building up group immunity, is the best path for the UK.

“As scientists have said lockdown for twelve weeks results in a further breakout of infections in July.

“The difference in keeping the hospitality industry open, even with reduced sales, is colossal.

“The industry contributes £120bn a year of tax and six million jobs. Wetherspoon alone contributes £2m a DAY of tax.

“Lockdown delays the inevitable and destroys the tax base at the same time, which will cripple the NHS and the economy.

“The Prime Minister should show Dutch courage and follow the example of their PM Mark Rutte - and avoid taking French leave of his senses by following the lockdown example of perfidious Emmanuel Macron.

Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor

“The government has adapted and evolved its medical response to coronavirus, now needs to significantly ramp-up its action on the needs of businesses large and small to protect jobs.

“This should be for businesses of all sizes and sectors. From fitness instructors, pubs, bars and cafes most at risk in the immediate term, to the industrial businesses like those in the chemicals sectors that will be the backbone of our economic recovery.

“We are in the midst of a global crisis not seen before, and given the unprecedented challenges for individuals, families, business and public services we need to throw out the rule book on ideology and political motives and take whatever measures are necessary to preserve lives and minimise economic damage over the coming weeks.

“My team and I are 100 per cent focused, but it’s clear the scale of the challenge means we need resources far beyond what is normally available.

“Businesses now need twelve weeks’ support at least to get them through the expected peak of the crisis, the alternative is just unthinkable.

“On social care and health support I am doing all I can to help support our local councils and NHS Trusts to deliver the services that they must provide to local people to help us through these unprecedented times.”

“The Dutch approach has the additional advantage of being in tune with the robust instincts of the nation.

This is evidenced by Wetherspoon sales which have been positive in the last few weeks in spite of storms and health scares.“

Dan Jarvis, Sheffield City Mayor

“Coronavirus will also have a profound impact on our economy as workers self-isolate.

“I welcome the announcement by the Department for Work and Pensions to guarantee access to statutory sick pay for all self-employed and gig economy workers and believe that the government must do everything in its power to support workers and businesses throughout this period of extreme turbulence.

“People who do the right thing and follow the government guidelines must not face a financial penalty for doing so.

“As Mayor, I have convened our local authorities, economic experts and our chambers of commerce to monitor and respond to the impact of coronavirus on our regional economy.

“I am working with small businesses to ensure they can access the measures announced in the Budget and pressing the government for additional support for SMEs and self-employed workers.”

Access free online guidance for North East businesses in the Growth Hub North East's COVID-19 toolkit →

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