Ed Dwan, head of BDO LLP in the North West
Ed Dwan, head of BDO LLP in the North West

Member Article

The biggest threat to North West businesses is a second wave of COVID-19, BDO poll finds

  • 70% of North West businesses believe a domestic second wave of COVID-19 poses a bigger threat than a no-deal Brexit, according to a BDO LLP poll released today
  • 83% of North West businesses think the Government will make progress on its ambition to ‘level up’ the UK regions, despite the difficulties of the Coronavirus pandemic and Brexit.

A domestic second wave of COVID-19 poses a bigger threat to North West businesses than a no-deal Brexit, according to the monthly Rethinking the Economy survey of 500 mid-sized businesses.

The poll – conducted by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP - revealed that companies are more concerned about the impact of the ongoing global pandemic, despite the country entering the final three months of an agreed transition period after Brexit.

The UK will leave the EU’s customs union and single market on 31 December, regardless of whether a new trade deal is agreed and ratified. However, only 23% of respondents stated that a no-deal Brexit was a more immediate risk to the UK economy – a sentiment replicated across the regions.

Commenting on the findings, Ed Dwan, partner and head of BDO in the North West, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic clearly presents an ongoing threat to North West businesses, as they continue to contend with tightening Government restrictions and the reintroduction of local lockdowns in many of the region’s boroughs. “With very little detail on what a potential Brexit deal could look like – and how comprehensive and far-reaching it might be – it’s clear that North West businesses have placed Brexit further down on the agenda. However, with the clock ticking, it’s essential that companies prepare themselves for life outside of the EU, addressing key areas such as supply chains, workforce, VAT registrations, processes and cashflow.”

Despite the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, warning the North’s economy could become ‘levelled down’ if it doesn’t receive support over the winter, the BDO report also revealed that 83% of North West businesses think the Government will make progress in levelling up the regions in the next three years.

Mr Burnham said there was an ‘increasing sense of unfairness’ in the way local restrictions have been applied. Combined with reports that the Government’s white paper on devolution and local recovery has been delayed until 2021, the Metro Mayor believes if the North faces a winter of restrictions without support it is clear that the region’s economy will be ‘levelled down not levelled up’.

Ed Dwan added: “While North West companies cope with a myriad of political and socio-economic challenges, as well as business and operational concerns, such as sales, the wellbeing and safety of employees and adapting for Brexit, what is encouraging is that more than a third of businesses still expect to expand their workforce in the next fiscal year, indicating recovery as they rebuild workforces. However, many plan to revise terms for employees. Our poll found that 30% of businesses have already altered their terms of employment for more than 10% of respective staff, including job shares and reduced hours.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Emma McCallum .

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