Looking ahead to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s press conference this afternoon, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry said:
“Today’s press conference will raise the hopes of millions of small businesses after 16 months of on-again, off-again restrictions and forced closures.
“A reopening on 19 July across England will be especially important to those in the nightlife, events and hospitality sectors who have been shut for five straight quarters, those who cannot turn a profit with restrictions in place, and suppliers to these firms. Millions have withstood the worst year of their working lives and finally face the prospect of relief.
“The Government should recognise the huge amount of work it has to do from here to build confidence and provide the clear, comprehensive communication that businesses, their staff and customers will need to pave the way for a strong recovery.
“Previous false dawns have proved disruptive and disappointing. Any celebrations will be on hold until we know what new operating rules will look like – we urgently need clarity.
“Small firms have a host of questions they need answering in the next 14 days, among them: is this intervention confirmation enough to buy stock and get staff in place for the 19th? What do I say to staff worried about the safety of public transport? Where do I stand if I lift all restrictions at my business and someone contracts covid on site? Do I tell staff the office is safe to reopen? How will the rules around schooling and childcare change? What police protection will there be for me if I ask customers to follow safety procedures and they refuse? What infrastructure, like testing, will be kept in place for businesses?
“After enforcing restrictions for so long, the Government must not simply withdraw and allow a free-for-all. The sooner we have crystal clear, comprehensive guidance from BEIS, the better.
“Equally, the Government has a responsibility to make sure people feel safe enough to act on this opportunity, if and when it comes, and accept the reality that, after a year of being told from the top to stay at home, people will need reassurance that it is safe to go out. The more policymakers can be transparent around the data on which decisions are based, the more they can help to reassure.
“The economic cost of lockdowns has been huge, and has fallen disproportionately on small businesses. Firms will be financing their reopenings whilst emergency loan repayments kick in, business rates bills for the hardest-hit return, VAT deferrals are due and furlough support is withdrawn. We are still waiting for the Government to deliver promised rates support to suppliers, alongside £1bn of restart and additional restriction grants that should have reached firms months ago via councils.
“A strong recovery is finally within our reach. Focus, support and clear guidance from the Government are needed to make it a reality.”
As the UK’s largest business support group, FSB is the voice of the UK’s small businesses and the self-employed. Established over 40 years ago to help its members succeed in business, FSB is a non-profit making and non-party political organisation that’s led by its members, for its members. As the UK’s leading business campaigner, FSB is focused on delivering change which supports smaller businesses to grow and succeed.
FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including access to finance, business banking, legal advice and support along with a powerful voice in Government. Each year FSB also runs the UK’s Celebrating Small Business Awards. More information is available at www.fsb.org.uk. You can follow us on twitter @fsb_policy and on Instagram @fsb_uk.