"The stop-start dynamic of the past year must come to an end": Businesses react to the government's roadmap out of lockdown
Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his plans for a roadmap out of lockdown yesterday (February 22).
Comprising four stages, the roadmap will see the reopening of schools, non-essential businesses, leisure firms, the hospitality sector and more.
Business leaders across England have reacted to the plans and shared their thoughts on what the next few months may look like.
Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce
“It is helpful that many businesses across England can now see a path to restart and recovery.
“Absolute clarity and honesty will be needed every step of the way over the weeks ahead, so that businesses have a fighting chance to rebuild. The stop-start dynamic of the past year, which has so damaged businesses and communities, must come to an end.
“Even with the Prime Minister’s new roadmap, the future of thousands of firms and millions of jobs still hangs by a thread.
“Many hard-hit businesses simply don’t have the cash reserves needed to hold out several more months before they are allowed to reopen.
“Businesses will hold the Prime Minister to his pledge to support firms for the duration of the pandemic, as this gruelling marathon nears its end. Businesses have haemorrhaged billions of pounds over the past year and need action now.
“All the key support schemes for business should be extended – through the summer and wherever possible throughout 2021 – to ensure that as many viable firms as possible can make it to the finish line and recover.”
James Ramsbotham, chief executive, North East England Chamber of Commerce
“It is helpful government has begun to set out the direction of travel for lifting current restrictions. There is now an urgent need for a corresponding road map specifically for businesses. They must have detail on how they will be supported to come out of lock down measures.
“I understand it is important for people’s wellbeing to be able to meet up socially in the coming weeks but I would argue it is also extremely important that our economy is supported to get back on track.
“It would be beneficial if there were more regular updates on this ‘road map’ so businesses can see clearly if there will be a shift due to any changing circumstances.
“There also has to be proper briefings for businesses going forward rather than employers planning their futures from leaked information in newspapers. A further important part of coming out of lock down successfully is ensuring Test and Trace’s potential is fully realised, to deal with localised outbreaks.”
Ian Wright CBE, chief executive of Food and Drink Federation (FDF)
“It is disappointing but wholly expected that the Prime Minister’s roadmap shows no signs of taking account of any input from business.
“For a great many of the food and drink manufacturers supplying the hospitality and food service sectors, a return to ‘business as usual’ seems an awful long way off.
“As such, it is only correct that the Chancellor outlines significant extensions to the furlough and credit insurance schemes as part of his Budget announcement next week.
“The food and drink industry is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector. It will therefore be key to the country’s economic recovery, with a footprint in every region.
“Now is the time for [the] government to provide additional support to ensure those businesses most at risk can play their part in putting the country back on its feet.”
Michelle Ovens CBE, founder of Small Business Britain
“It is encouraging to see progress in a roadmap towards the easing of lockdown today. The reopening of schools is good news, not just for children, but for working parents, particularly those juggling their own businesses and home-schooling.
“However, for many small businesses there is still a long way to go. It is clear that a lot of sectors will continue to face tough restrictions for a much longer period than ever anticipated and so the government support for this critical part of the economy needs to grow accordingly.
“Small businesses need greater certainty about what reopening will look like for them, so they can plan for their staff and their survival. Crucially, they will also need stepped-up support to bridge this gap.
“It is vital that the Budget next week focuses on additional support for small firms. Measures to reduce their costs, like an extension to furlough and the business rates holiday, cuts to VAT rates and other help to pay bills through extensions to local grants and the Bounce Back Loan scheme, will all be welcome.
“I would also hope to see a longer-term plan to support small businesses to not only survive and recover, but to return to growth.
“There is a need for a strategy to address and leverage the sweeping structural changes to the economy that the pandemic has wrought, such as changes to the high street and the mass adoption of digital and remote-working that has changed the face of business.”
Roger Marsh OBE DL, chair of the NP11 and Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership
“I am pleased to see the Government making positive steps forward in outlining a clear yet cautious, data-led roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions and working towards a brighter future.
“As we know, parts of the North will have been in lockdown effectively for a year, so we must ensure the support is there to help individuals and key sectors of our economy, like retail and culture, recover.
“As we rescue, re-imagine and continue to build resilience, I truly believe that we all can play our part to ensure that the North is at the heart of the nation’s recovery to build back better.”
Neil Pattison, director at Caterer.com
“Despite their rigour and focus in implementing successful Covid-secure protocols, it is frustrating to see that restaurants and bars will be slow to fully reopen compared to other businesses.
“Studies have shown that with the right systems in place, hospitality businesses have extremely low transmission rates. The sector is raring to go, leading the way for trading responsibly and introducing procedures which ensure the safety of staff and customers.
“Equally, customers are keen to return and enjoy hospitality venues, and this will positively impact both the economy and mental wellbeing in the UK.
“As the vaccine programme continues at pace and data allows, an earlier full reopening should be considered for hospitality venues as outdoor operation is simply not feasible for so many businesses.
“Alongside this, it’s crucial that government support continues to protect jobs in hospitality. It’s clear social distancing will be in place for the foreseeable future, and many businesses will continue to struggle to remain viable as their capacity to serve customers will be reduced.
“The hospitality industry is ready to play a major part in the UK’s economic recovery and we need to work hand-in-hand with [the] government to build trust and confidence, so this vital sector can find its feet again.”
Looking to promote your product/service to SME businesses in your region? Find out how Bdaily can help →
Enjoy the read? Get Bdaily delivered.
Sign up to receive our popular morning National email for free.