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Northamptonshire Chamber

Reaction to Prime Minister’s Covid 19 Exit Roadmap

Posted: 23/02/21 by Northamptonshire Chamber

Business leaders in Northamptonshire & Milton Keynes have welcomed the roadmap out of lockdown – but warn that firms in the region will still need more support to survive the Covid-19 crisis.

In an address to Parliament, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out the timeline when restrictions could be gradually lifted but said the easing of lockdown would be guided by data, not dates.

He said he wanted the current lockdown to be the last and the easing of restrictions to be irreversible, beginning with the reopening of schools and other education establishments on March 8 building to a potential full reopening of society and the economy on June 21.

Louise Wall, Interim chief executive of the Northamptonshire & Milton Keynes Chambers of Commerce, said: “This has been an incredibly challenging time for businesses
throughout our region, with some sectors being even hit harder than others.

“It has also been a huge challenge for the Government to get the balance right between the health of the economy and the health of the nation, therefore those in business will welcome the sentiment that this should be the final lockdown and will support the cautious reopening of the economy based on the data at the
time.

“The optimism that the Prime ministers’ announcement today brings will be short-lived for many businesses if they run out of cash between now and when they can reopen. The
Prime Minister did say that the Budget (3rd March) would see further announcements on support for businesses and we would urge the Chancellor to extend schemes such as Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Business Rates holidays to give companies space to manoeuvre.

“Further to that, we have to a plan of support for when the economy does reopen as, for many firms, it won’t simply be a case of flicking a switch as so many have laid dormant for a big part of the past year.

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s roadmap for reopening in England, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce said:

“It is helpful that many businesses across England can now see a path to restart and recovery. Absolute clarity and honesty will be needed every step of the way over the weeks ahead, so that businesses have a fighting chance to rebuild. The stop-start dynamic of the past year, which has so damaged businesses and communities, must come to an end.

“Even with the Prime Minister’s new roadmap, the future of thousands of firms and millions of jobs still hangs by a thread.

“Many hard-hit businesses simply don’t have the cash reserves needed to hold out several more months before they are allowed to reopen.

“Businesses will hold the Prime Minister to his pledge to support firms for the duration of the pandemic, as this gruelling marathon nears its end. Businesses have haemorrhaged billions of pounds over the past year and need action now.

“All the key support schemes for business should be extended – through the summer and wherever possible throughout 2021 – to ensure that as many viable firms as possible can make it to the finish line and recover.”

On vaccination and testing, Marshall added:

“It is also critical that alongside the pace of the vaccination programme, workplace testing is expanded to businesses of all sizes and continued for as long as is necessary – to help keep our companies and communities open over the months ahead.”

On international travel, Marshall said:

“The safe restart of international travel is critical to UK trade, to hundreds of thousands of UK jobs, and to the prospects for a Global Britain. Companies want hard answers and a coordinated international approach agreed as soon as possible.”

On businesses facing the longest possible restrictions, Marshall said:

“The long wait continues for some businesses of critical importance to our local economies, including events. The task forces convened to look at how to reopen these sectors must deliver results quickly.”

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