COVID-19: Pleas for more support ahead of Sunak’s Budget

The chancellor is facing growing pressure to give more support to people and businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Northern Research Group (NRG) and the British Chambers of Commerce have both called for more help during the third national lockdown.

The NRG made a submission to Rishi Sunak ahead of his Budget in March warning that families in the north were facing a series of financial “cliff edges” as existing support schemes come to an end.

Chairman Jake Berry said that, while lockdowns were necessary while the vaccine is rolled out, they also “entrench and compound disadvantage already felt by those communities this government has promised to level up”.

“Whilst we welcome the unprecedented support provided by this government for those impacted by this virus, to relinquish support now would cause long-term damage to large parts of the north and weaken our recovery.

“Now is the time for the Treasury to provide stability – not uncertainty – to people across the country, by confirming it will stick to task and continue supporting families and businesses as we recover from this pandemic by extending a number of the support measures available.”

The British Chambers of Commerce said businesses across the country were also facing a “desperate situation” due to the coronavirus restrictions.

Many businesses, such as those in hospitality and retail, have been forced to remain closed for much of the past year as part of government efforts to limit the spread of the virus.

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The BCC called for the extension of business rates relief, prolonging VAT deferrals, and offering more cash grants.

Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC, said: “We have written to the chancellor to highlight the desperate situation facing thousands of businesses all across the UK.

“The damage inflicted by the pandemic is widespread. It goes far beyond the very visible casualties hit by repeated stop-start lockdowns.

“The support schemes the government has introduced so far have saved many firms and jobs, but they have not gone far enough to help many survive a tough start to 2021. The drip-feed approach to business support measures has meant many firms simply cannot plan for the future.

“We are urging the government to urgently adopt a package of measures that covers the whole of 2021, and that takes away the cliff-edges firms face in a few weeks’ time when reliefs, forbearance and furlough are set to end. Many companies simply can’t wait until the March Budget.”

Andy Brown, managing director at Crow Wood Leisure, a health, fitness and leisure complex in east Lancashire, commented: “For every month we’re shut, we currently lose £250,000.

“Our business is not a tap that can be turned on and off at will, nor can it be meaningfully helped by the government’s one-size-fits-all approach to financial support.”

A Treasury spokesman said: “Throughout this crisis, we have put businesses and families at the heart of our response, providing almost £300bn worth of support and through our Plan for Jobs.

“That approach will not change both during and beyond the pandemic.”

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