The British Chambers of Commerce has called on the Government to publish its approach to national Coronavirus restrictions in England without delay.
We are asking for ministers to provide businesses with:
At least one week’s notice of restrictions that will apply after lockdown ends on December 2;
Scientific evidence for continuing restrictions on specific business sectors;
An economic impact assessment of the continued restrictions and closures on communities and the wider economy.
Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is affiliated to the British Chambers, which represents more than 70,000 firms of all sizes and sectors across the UK.
We are concerned about the lack of clarity over what form restrictions will take once lockdown ends and we argue that businesses need at least one week’s notice of forthcoming changes to allow adequate time to prepare to re-open and trade afterwards.
We are also pressing the Government to explain clearly why many businesses have been forced to close despite taking considerable steps at huge expense to comply with Covid-secure guidance, including those in leisure, non-essential retail and beauty.
The British Chambers has submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ascertain what evidence base, if any, was used to inform government guidance on the closure of businesses in England from November 5.
This clarity is essential for businesses and government to work together on steps that avoid the need for business closures in future.
The call follows the British Chambers’ challenge to the Prime Minister to meet five business tests to limit the impact of Coronavirus restrictions on businesses and jobs, and take a long-term approach to tackling the pandemic.
Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers, said: “Nine months into the pandemic, business communities are still crying out for timely information and a clear strategy from government so that they can survive and rebuild.
“Delays and imprecision mean people lose their livelihoods. Firms are taking difficult decisions every day about their futures, and are tired of being left to rely on speculation and rumour. The Government must urgently set out the exit plan for the end of national restrictions in England on December 2 – and make it crystal-clear which businesses can operate, and under what conditions.
“Businesses have played their part by working hard and spending hundreds of millions of pounds to become Covid-secure, in line with official guidance. We must see the evidence for why many were forced to close again on November 5, and absolute transparency on what may happen from December 2.
“Businesses cannot take another year of rushed stop-start restrictions from governments while vaccines are rolled out. Broad-based workplace testing would help bridge the gap, maintaining employee confidence and helping as many businesses as possible remain open and trading at this crucial time.”
Prior to lockdown, the Government was operating a three-tier system of Covid restrictions in England. Most of Cumbria was at the lowest level of restrictions, classed as ‘medium risk’.
However, Barrow moved into tier-2, designated as ‘high risk’, on October 17 and Carlisle followed on October 31. In tier-2 areas, people from different households could not meet indoors, which had a detrimental effect on pubs and restaurants in particular.
New grants are available to businesses that have been forced to close under the national lockdown and to those not required to close that have been severely impacted. There are also grants for businesses severely impacted by the restrictions in Tier-2 areas prior to November 5. Details in our Covid Toolkit.