Chief executive of Liverpool-based business lobby group Downtown in Business, Frank McKenna, says urgent clarity is needed from Government on its COVID-19 bounceback strategy
A route map showing us how and when we will come through this pandemic is urgently needed from the Government if business is to have any chance of quickly bouncing back.
Business is all about planning and trying to predict what the market will be and how the environment will impact on products or services.
A plan showing the steps that are being taken by Government to get us back to normal, what the predictions are for easing the lockdown and how that is likely to be done, and what the business landscape is likely to be over the next six to 12 months is crucial to helping the UK economy.
Firstly, the Government should tell us how many vaccinations they expect to get done and what number is required to enable an easing of the lockdown. Some Government predictions on this are what is needed.
Secondly, Government needs to introduce COVID passports, bolstered by a comprehensive track and trace system. People who can demonstrate that they have had a negative test, or a vaccine, can access retail, hospitality, and cultural venues – and work from work.
The messaging around this needs to be clear or we risk another ‘mask’ fiasco, where some people think it is acceptable for them to ignore this advice because enforcement has not been strong enough.
Thirdly, the Chancellor needs to provide a refreshed business support package now – we cannot afford to wait until the budget statement in March. The criteria around CBILS loans must be revisited and relaxed.
The first round of funding was to get companies through a three to six-month crisis, not a year. The Chancellor must now instruct the banks to proceed with a further round of investment for those businesses who need it.
He should also announce an extension of the furlough scheme until the end of 2021. He can always row back on that if the economy bounces back quicker, but such an extension will save many jobs during the next quarter.
The year has started well with the vaccination programme getting underway, a Brexit deal done, and a new US President being inaugurated. Our Government now need to capitalise on the positive start to 2021 by giving business people and the country at large a route map out of the pandemic.
A failure to act will see a return to the negativity that consumed us before Christmas – and could translate into further business failures, more unemployment and an increasingly failing economy.