Express & Star comment: Rishi Sunak helping businesses buy more time

If you wanted to be uncharitable, you could describe the Government's response to the coronavirus crisis as being characterised by a series of U-turns.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak

But making adroit changes in the face of a dynamic situation is not the same as making a U-turn, or making it up as you go along. It is keeping up with the reality of what is going on.

In normal circumstances, which are difficult even to remember nowadays, a Chancellor of the Exchequer would be rather shamefaced if he or she had to make repeated returns to the House of Commons to announce alterations to policy.

It would amount to a humiliating admission that the previous financial sums were wrong. But the pandemic has changed all the rules. And the emergence of this second wave has meant the response that was appropriate a few weeks ago is no longer fit for purpose today.

During the course of the crisis Rishi Sunak has come up with measures to provide economic support to try to cushion the impact of the disastrous pandemic which have been imaginative and, indeed, revolutionary and unprecedented.

The targeted local approach and the three tier system have changed the ballgame once more. Businesses are facing the risk of going to the wall through no fault of their own, but because of the restrictions the Government is imposing.

The three tier system has led to anomalies. For instance, some hospitality businesses in tier 2, the high alert level which still gives them scope to operate, contend that it would be better for them to be in the most restrictive tier 3, the very high alert level, because at least they would get some Government support.

Rishi Sunak has obviously taken the point, as he has stepped up support for jobs and workers in tier 2 as part of a package of alterations to his financial sail-set in the face of the Covid storm.

These changes will give a measure of reassurance too to businesses in those places currently in tier 1 which are moving inexorably towards tier 2 status.

The Chancellor has listened to reasoned arguments put forward from the Midlands, and other places.

The Chancellor cannot buy off Covid, but for many hard-hit enterprises and workers these measures will buy more time as we pray for recovery.

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