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East Midlands Chamber News

‘Prolonged agony for businesses’ after latest lockdown update, says Chamber as it urges Government to support travel industry

Responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement that the national lockdown will last until at least 8 March and confirmation that passengers arriving from high-risk countries will have to quarantine in hotels for 10 days, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) chief executive Scott Knowles said: “Today’s update from the Prime Ministers signals a prolonged agony for businesses, which will have soon faced a full 12 months of disruption to their ability to trade.

“We fully understand the unenviable position of the Government as it must delicately balance the health of the public and the economy, but another six weeks of what is effectively a full shutdown for certain sectors, means it must be prepared to dig deep and support businesses and jobs.

Don’t let businesses fail now having come so far

“After already spending billions on helping good firms to survive this crisis, it must not let these companies fail now when the vaccine rollout provides light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

“This may require further targeted support to affected industries where there’s a very real threat of the cashflow crisis of 2020 – which we know is a huge concern in the East Midlands as our Quarterly Economic Surveys have shown access to cash fell for the majority of companies in every quarter last year – transitioning into the insolvency crisis of 2021.

“There is also strong evidence the Job Retention Scheme will need to be extended beyond the end of April, and confirmation from the Chancellor of this as soon as possible would help businesses to plan for the future.

School closures create continued disruption for homeworking parents

“With schools closed until 8 March at the earliest, this will only serve to increase the pressure on homeworking parents, who must balance their job with homeschooling. We’d encourage businesses to offer flexible working options to employees in this situation but to avoid an educational gap between pupils opening up, it would also be helpful if the Government could join companies in supporting families who can’t afford laptops for children to access the necessary IT equipment.

Quarantine hotels can’t be allowed to disrupt post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ message

“The rationale behind so-called quarantine hotels being used to combat the issue of overseas transmissions coming into the UK is understood but it means the time has come for the Government to provide the necessary support to our once-thriving travel industry.

“The concept of ‘Global Britain’ following the end of the EU transition period has never been more important and this latest set of restrictions on international travel cannot risk the East Midlands being unable to capitalise on this. A clear exit strategy is required to demonstrate to businesses here and abroad that this is a temporary nature borne from necessity and will be removed as early as is possible.

“East Midlands Airport is one of the most important strategic sites in our region and offers much potential to the nation’s post-Brexit global trading relationship. While it has enjoyed record cargo traffic in recent months, lockdown restrictions have obviously dealt a huge blow to passenger numbers, which provide the backbone to the business, and it’s vital Westminster realises this.

Government must consult businesses over lockdown easing plans

“We welcome the Prime Minister’s comments regarding plans to set out plans for a phased route out of lockdown on the week commencing 22 February, but it’s imperative this involves full consultation with businesses.

“It’s of little use to firms to be given short notice about the opportunity to reopen and they must be involved in these discussions – as well as given the necessary financial support until this time comes.”

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