BCC: Government must support businesses – not just to weather restrictions but to power our economic recovery

3rd December 2020

British Chambers of Commerce calls for the government to give businesses more evidence, support and clarity to weather Coronavirus restrictions and help power our economic recovery.

The British Chambers of Commerce has called on the UK government to meet the five business tests it set out for Coronavirus restrictions in a letter from the Chamber Network to the Prime Minister in October to limit their impact on businesses and jobs and take a long-term approach to tackling the pandemic.

The BCC’s five business tests are:

  1. EVIDENCE: Are the restrictions evidence-based and targeted effectively? 
  2. CLARITY: Are the restrictions clear and do businesses have time to prepare? 
  3. SUPPORT: Is support for businesses commensurate with the impact on them?  
  4. TESTING: Will the time that the restrictions are in place be used to significantly improve the Test, Trace and Isolate system?  
  5. EXIT STRATEGY: Is there a clear process for increasing and decreasing restrictions?  

Currently, the new restrictions do not satisfactorily meet any of the tests. The BCC gave the government red lights on providing firms with clarity and time to prepare, on improving the Test, Trace and Isolate system, and on whether there is a clear process for increasing and decreasing restrictions. The BCC gave the government an amber light on the other two tests. 

The call follows the release of the government’s economic impact assessment of Coronavirus restrictions, which was insufficient in providing businesses with information on how restrictions have been designed and applied in their area. 

The BCC found that while the government’s forward communication to businesses ahead of changes to restrictions has improved, the multiple iterations of guidelines has left businesses without adequate time to plan accordingly, affecting their long-term survival. 

The leading business organisation is calling for financial support to be commensurate with restrictions, especially for those placed in the highest tiers, and for firms in town and city centres whose trade is reliant on employees working from offices.

BCC President Baroness McGregor-Smith said:

“There is no escaping the fact that restrictions, whether national or regional, are a devastating blow to our business communities. 

“A vaccine undoubtedly provides light at the end of the tunnel – but now is not the time for government to weaken its resolve. Until it is rolled out, government must do all it can to support businesses – not just to weather restrictions, but to help power our economic recovery. 

“That means providing crystal-clear clear guidance on how to safely continue operating, financial support commensurate with restrictions especially for those placed in the toughest tiers, and above all, significantly improving the Test, Trace and Isolate system to keep businesses and the economy open.”

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