Firms in the dark on future Coronavirus restrictions

British Chambers of Commerce calls for evidence and clarity for businesses as government mulls post-December 2nd Coronavirus restrictions in England

The British Chambers of Commerce has called on the UK government to publish its approach to national Coronavirus restrictions in England without delay, providing firms with:

  • at least one week’s notice ahead of December 2nd;
  • scientific evidence for any continuing restrictions on specific business sectors; and 
  • an economic impact assessment of the impact of continued business restrictions and closures on communities and the wider economy. 

With the second national lockdown in England due to end on 2 December, the leading business organisation – which collectively represents over 70,000 firms of all sizes and sectors across the UK employing six million people – is concerned about the lack of clarity over what form restrictions will take after the current lockdown.

BCC has called for government to publish its plans with at least one week’s notice before restrictions are set to end on 2 December, allowing firms adequate time to prepare to re-open and trade afterwards.

The group is also pressing government to explain clearly why businesses in a number of sectors have been forced to close despite taking considerable steps at huge expense to comply with Covid-secure guidance, including leisure, non-essential retail and beauty.

It has submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to determine 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 BCC’s 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.

BCC Director General Adam Marshall 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 2nd December – 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 5th November, and absolute transparency on what may happen from 2nd December.

“Business communities – whether in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – 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.”

Clarity on measures following 2 December, would help business leaders like Warren Smyth, Chief Executive of Abbeycroft Leisure. A member of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, Abbeycroft are a not-for-profit social enterprise that oversees 19 leisure and fitness centres across the county, employing around 600 people.

Mr Smyth said:

“We are planning to open on 3 December. Our staff, services and facilities are lined up to reopen at that point. If we get a change of tack the day before, the impact on business and customer confidence will be significant.

“We have worked hard to support our customers to keep healthy and active which is even more important than ever this year. We need clarity and a plan to help with our recovery and the future health of both our communities and our businesses.”

Kym Morris and Sian Jaoko, co-directors of Earth Florists, and members of the Wirral Chamber of Commerce, said: 

“Christmas is the busiest time of the year for florists. We would need to order extra flowers a week before opening the shop again to make sure we have them in stock. Opening on December 3 is a really important opportunity for us to claw back some of the revenue we’ve lost. If we were told to give it another week, Christmas is lost for us as people will buy their wreaths from larger stores that will continue trading.”

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