Image Source: Tobias Michaelsen
Yesterday (March 19) saw more measures taken by the government and major institutions to combat the impact of COVID-19.
Chloe Shakesby

Coronavirus measures: The business community reacts to Thursday's developments

Yesterday (March 19) saw more measures taken by the government and major institutions to combat the impact of COVID-19.

Among those measures, the Bank of England has slashed base rates from 0.25 per cent to 0.1 per cent, and the government announced that a business support package will be revealed today.

It also published the list of ‘key workers’ whose children will still be attending school after today.

Matthew Fell, CBI

“Defining which workers are critical to the national effort is a difficult task.

“Today’s list will help business and individuals to plan.

“But the need for different jobs will change in the weeks ahead, so the list must be kept under constant review with additions where necessary.”

**Oliver Prill, Tide **

“With the impact of the coronavirus, and resulting policies of social distancing, impacting micro, small and medium sized - businesses in an unprecedented way, we need to be taking widespread action as soon as possible.

“The measures announced by the chancellor in the Budget and in the press conference on 17 March are generous and will be crucial to the survival of our small business sector, however there are serious problems in the speed of delivery and the mechanisms through which they are being delivered.

“I have written to the government today to outline that the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), accessible via the British Business Bank, has a worrying lack of reach.

“The British Business Bank’s decision to work only with the traditional banks and lenders, already on the Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme, reduces the reach to an estimated 80 per cent, meaning 20 per cent of micro, small and medium sized businesses will have no access to the scheme.

“Of that 80 per cent, a further 80 per cent will be denied access to credit due to restrictive lending practices, compared to the more advanced lending technology and differences in risk appetite, that the fintech sector offers.

“As a result, one third of the most vulnerable small businesses could start to fail at scale within 4-8 weeks, as they do not have the liquidity reserves to continue much longer.

“Immediate emergency access should be given to all SME lenders as a “whatever it takes” measure. In a second step, the scheme needs to be redesigned by people who really understand the current urgent situation and are willing to act boldly.”

Richard Flinton, North Yorkshire County Council

“We are all working in an unprecedented period of interruption to the way we live our lives and run our businesses, but at the same time we must remain very much focused on continuing to deliver the best public services possible and to direct our efforts towards those who need them most.

“I fully recognise there are many questions and concerns and that we are all in a fast changing environment which is likely to continue for some time.

“I will, therefore, aim to share this regular briefing note with you to ensure you are kept up to date with the latest information, help and guidance that North Yorkshire County Council has to share.

“We have already undertaken detailed reviews of our business continuity plans to reflect the likely impact of COVID-19 on our workforce and working practices.

“These are robust and prioritise particularly the delivery of health and social care services, support for parents, families and the workforce at large, including, of course, our own dedicated staff.

“We are also working extremely hard to support North Yorkshire’s people and businesses as well as the hugely important community and voluntary sector networks.

We are absolutely committed to continue to work with our health, local authority and emergency service partners to plan and respond to a broad range of challenges, as you would hope and rightly expect. This means we can collectively understand the county’s needs and target our resources where they are needed most.

We also have a big focus on communications and will update this new bulletin twice a week - or more if that is appropriate. I hope you will find it useful.

Andy Chamberlain, Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed

“Coronavirus is not only a health crisis, but an income crisis that threatens the self-employed in particular.

“In the last week, many of our members have reported having many of their projects delayed or even cancelled. Many we have spoken to say they have savings to last out up to two months of income interruption, but little more.

“The government must do more now, or risk an enormous blow to the £305bn self-employed sector.

“We are calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to set up a Temporary Income Protection Fund to keep our smallest businesses afloat during this crisis.

“This should give a time-limited, targeted cash injection to the freelance businesses that are struggling most. It is a significant ask, but it is what is needed to keep this vital sector going through these grave and unprecedented times.

“The government must do more to support the self-employed now. They must not be left with a disastrous choice between their incomes and their health.”

Caroline Norbury MBE, Creative Industries Federation

“Without the right support, government measures will hit the self-employed the hardest, and not just on their bottom line: on their families and mental health.

“A temporary income guarantee is urgently needed. We need government to make a big, bold and brave move to support these workers, our families and our communities”

Sir Philip Pullman, Society of Authors

“In this confused and anxious time, those artists, writers, musicians and others who earn a fragile livelihood as self-employed suppliers of delight and consolation should not be forgotten.

“It’s not easy to make a living doing that at the best of times: now the need to support our freelance artists of every kind is urgent and imperative.”

**Emma Jones MBE, Enterprise Nation **

“It’s becoming crystal clear that the self-employed will need enhanced financial protection over the coming months and not just while self-isolating.

“At the moment, this issue hasn’t been tackled by the government.

“While this crisis continues, we must see some fiscal intervention emerging at the very least in the next few days.

“We’re working hard to find creative ways to provide tips and information for small businesses and self-employed individuals via our coronavirus hub. It’s free to anyone to use.”

Kevin Doran, AJ Bell

“Once again we’re seeing central bankers using the playbook from the last financial crisis.
“Overnight we saw the ECB roll out the QE cannons and, now in an effort to be seen doing ‘something’, the Bank of England have waded in with an emergency rate cut.

“It’s the solutions of yesteryear when liquidity and credit were the problems. This time it truly is different – with a workforce on lockdown, there’s a production chasm about to open up.

“To fill the gap policy makers need to be working with Governments to introduce formal debt relief.

“Not forbearance, not interest holidays, but genuine relief from servicing debts as the world enters its enforced hibernation.”

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

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