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Lockdowns push businesses to the brink

Multiple Covid-19 lockdowns have pushed some Shropshire businesses to the brink of extinction, a new survey reveals.

Sobering statistics released today by the British Chambers of Commerce show that three in five companies have seen revenue from UK customers fall dramatically in the last three months.

And almost a third of businesses admit they will run out of cash in the next three months – with many predicting large-scale redundancies if the Government turns off its financial support in March and April.

Josh Carpenter, Shropshire Chamber’s policy officer, said: “Locally, almost a third of county businesses said they felt grant and financing programmes were insufficient.

“Almost 70% of businesses said they had been forced to close or halt at least some of their business because of Government rules, and nearly 10% said it was either uncertain or unlikely they could continue trading after lockdown. One in 10 are projecting redundancies.”

Richard Sheehan, Shropshire Chamber chief executive, said: “This report lays bare the impact which Covid-19 has had on our economy, and the knife-edge on which many of our businesses are now balancing. It is clear that the effect of multiple lockdowns during the Coronavirus crisis have pushed many businesses to the brink, reliant on Government support.”

Shropshire Chamber echoed the BCC’s call to see a clear roadmap for reopening, advancing vaccination and workplace testing plans, and extending key financial support measures throughout 2021.

The survey paints a bleak picture of a business landscape which has been severely squeezed by repeated lockdowns and massive changes in trading conditions. Results suggest that without the huge amount of Government support given to companies to date, the rate of business failures and job losses could have been much worse.

Mr Sheehan said: “Shropshire businesses are desperate to start trading again so they can begin to build back revenue and start looking to the future. It is vital that financial support packages remain in place in the meantime to aid companies through this transition period, as they seek to get their cashflow back on track.

“With nearly half of all the businesses in this survey saying they still have staff on furlough, pulling the plug on support measures too abruptly could be a catastrophic mistake.”

When asked to rate the effectiveness of the various Government schemes to support their business throughout the crisis, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), allowing firms to furlough staff, had by far the highest effectiveness rating.

Other schemes with high effectiveness ratings included Government loan schemes (such as CBILS and BBLS) where 46% rated them ‘very effective’. Business rates relief, VAT deferrals, and VAT cuts for certain sectors of the economy were also rated as very effective.

BCC director general Dr Adam Marshall said: “The last year has taken a heavy toll on businesses across the UK. With cashflow still the top concern, it is vital that the UK Government keeps financial support going until firms can reopen and rebuild.

“Firms are desperate to start trading again, but to do so they need to see a clear, evidence-based plan for reopening, and they need time to get back on their feet without unnecessary additional taxes, and the security of knowing that Government will once again support them should we see additional restrictions imposed at any point.

“In the meantime, support must remain in place for firms that need it until a full reopening of the economy is possible. With cashflow being a major challenge for many businesses, we can expect further redundancies or business failures should Government support end prematurely.”

Pictured: Richard Sheehan


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