In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, British Chambers of Commerce Director General, Dr Adam Marshall, BCC president Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith and chamber chief executives from across the UK, including Black Country chief Corin Crane, have set out five business tests that they say must be met and urge a long-term approach to tackling the pandemic.
The letter from the Accredited Chamber Network – which collectively represents 75,000 firms of all sizes and sectors across the UK employing nearly six million people – follows a week of increasing, regionally-tiered restrictions, with more severe ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions under consideration, as the country battles a second wave of the pandemic.
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Mr Crane said: “Right now, businesses and employees are suffering due to what often appears to be a piecemeal approach to solutions and their implementation.
“Whilst these are uncertain and difficult times for everybody, and decision-makers need to strike a balance, this letter is a clear demonstration of the collective voice of businesses across the Black Country and the rest of the country that sectors and entire industries are struggling.
“In particular, businesses need clear decisions and time to put in the necessary steps, their employees need to know how they will be able to travel to and from work and they need confidence in the test and trace system.
“There also has to be much longer term view to what support businesses need rather than the existing sticking plaster approach. Simply put, businesses have worked hard as part of the national effort and are now calling for clear, decisive and fair measures to be rolled out.”
The tests include whether the restrictions are evidence-based and targeted effectively? Are they clear and do businesses have time to prepare? Is support for businesses commensurate with the impact on them? Will the time that the restrictions are in place be used to significantly improve the Test, Trace and Isolate system? Is there a clear process for increasing and decreasing restrictions?
The letter reads: “While the recent announcement of an enhanced Job Support Scheme will assist some firms, chamber members tell us it will not be enough to stave off mass redundancies and business failures.”
There is also a clear warning that improving the Government’s ailing test and trace system is the only way to get a grip on the virus over the long term and prevent economic paralysis.
The letter adds: “The need for additional restrictions cannot be blamed on a lack of care by hardworking people in businesses across the country. Instead it represents a failure of the Test and Trace system, which must be urgently improved and expanded.”
It concludes: “The coronavirus is not going away anytime soon. The government must waste no more time in setting out a clear strategy to keep the economy functioning, while protecting public health over the long term.”