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A regional business leader says the Chancellor’s new coronavirus support plans will offer “a degree of reassurance” for firms facing the prospect of reducing their workforce.

Rishi Sunak unveiled a new job support scheme to replace the furlough programme in a speech today (24th September)..

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said the Government had listed to the concerns of business about the impact of another period of COVID-19 restrictions.

Paul Faulkner

“The Chancellor made his intentions clear from the outset of his announcement this afternoon – the business landscape has completely altered since the start of March.

“The new measures reflect the underlying fragility we face as a society as the Government attempts to revive the economy whilst also containing the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s pleasing to see the Chancellor has listened to the concerns shared by thousands of businesses across the country and recognised that strong measures needed to be taken to avoid a disastrous escalation of the unemployment rate over the winter months.

“The flagship wage subsidy plan forms the backbone of Mr Sunak’s winter plan and whilst we await on the specific policy details, it’s reassuring to see that the scheme will help preserve viable jobs and offers a degree of reassurance to those employers facing the harsh prospect of either retaining staff or making them redundant.

“The wider eligibility of the plan – compared to the original furlough scheme – is also good to see given the number of businesses which fell through the cracks and weren’t able to access the original programme.”

Paul Faulkner

Other measures outlined by the Chancellor included VAT deferral and extensions to so-called Bounce Back Loans.

But Mr Faulkner said the package unveiled could have gone further.

“Prolonging the loans schemes and lengthening their payment terms along with extending the VAT Deferral Scheme also makes complete sense – firms across the region are facing severe issues related to finance and levels of debt and hopefully this policy will help to alleviate these concerns in the medium term.

“Nevertheless, the Chancellor could have gone further in tackling these structural issues and hopefully we will see a reduction in the employer National Insurance Contributions along with a reform of our outmoded corporate tax system in the near future.

“From a broader perspective, it’s also disappointing to see a lack of reference to the large scale interventions which are required for the sectors which have been hardest hit, despite the promises made by the Prime Minister earlier in the week. 

“As we have seen throughout this crisis when large scale measures are announced, such as these today, there also tend to be gaps in support that quickly emerge, be they intended or simply oversights.”

Paul Faulkner

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