This is a time to be bold: BCC sets out principles for safe restart of UK economy

3rd May 2020

Open letter to Prime Minister published as government mulls plan to lift lockdown

British Chambers of Commerce President, Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, has written an open letter to the Prime Minister setting out principles for a phased restart of the UK economy.

The leading business group set out its integrated approach, the first step in a three-stage process, as the government prepares to ease initial lockdown restrictions.

The letter reads:

“The fight against the virus must remain the top priority, but the planning and communication of a carefully phased approach to lifting lockdown must begin immediately if we are to harness the public health and economic benefits, both now and in the future.”

Praising the work of Chambers of Commerce across the UK as the “first responders” of the business world, the letter is accompanied by detailed policy proposals for safely reopening the economy, comprising steps to:

  • Safely reopen public spaces and restore services (including schools and public transport)
  • Safely reopen workplaces and commercial spaces
  • Minimise job losses and business failures
  • Rebuild supply chains and customer bases; and
  • Put the UK economy on a high-growth, high-wage and low unemployment trajectory as soon as possible

The letter continues:

“This is a time to be bold. Government should not shy away from sustaining high levels of public spending in order to restart and renew our communities and the economy in the short and medium-term, while not tying the hands of future generations.

“An expansionary fiscal policy, including a commitment to transformative infrastructure investment, will be needed in order to generate the returns that will help to pay down the national debt in the longer-term.

“We see the journey ahead as having three phases:

  • Restart: a phased reopening of the economy
  • Rebuild: building resilience for firms and households
  • Renew: returning to prosperity and growth

“We plan to share some principles for each of these three phases over the coming weeks, beginning today with ‘Restart’.

“Fundamental prerequisites to beginning this journey include mass testing and contact tracing; clear decisions and guidance on what PPE is needed in workplaces; and proactive steps to ensure adequate supply of PPE to both the health service and to businesses where necessary.”

The letter welcomes the “speed and scale’ of existing government support schemes and indicates that they will need to “continue to evolve to support a phased restart of the economy, enabling businesses to survive through this crisis and thrive in the future.”

The letter concludes:

“We commit to working with you and your colleagues across Government on exploring these phases in detail as we plan our path forward. We owe nothing less to our businesses, and the communities and people they support, who have been battered by this storm.”

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