Commerce boss hits out at 'inadequate support once again' from government

Commerce boss calls on government to improve business support

John Bridge (left), chief executive of the Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, believes chancellor Rishi Sunak (right) and the government have provided "inadequate support yet again" for businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. - Credit: Archant/UK Government

The chief executive of the Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce believes that the government has provided “additional, yet inadequate support once again” for businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

John Bridge spoke after chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged £4.6 billion in support grants to help keep businesses afloat during the latest national lockdown and up until spring. 

However, Mr Bridge said that businesses will be “baffled and disappointed” that additional support was not provided during prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on January 4 that England was entering a third lockdown since last March. 

“Tens of thousands of firms are already in a precarious position, and now face a period of further hardship and difficulty,” Mr Bridge said. 

Commerce boss calls on government to boost business support

John Bridge, chief executive of the Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, believes the government has provided "inadequate support yet again" for businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. - Credit: Archant

“Billions have already been spent helping good firms to survive this unprecedented crisis and to save jobs.  

“These businesses must not be allowed to fail now, when we are told the vaccine rollout provides light at the end of this long tunnel.” 

Businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure will receive one-off grants of up to £9,000 under the government’s support package. 

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Despite this, Mr Bridge is calling for the prime minister and the chancellor to set out a clearer strategy to help businesses, particularly smaller firms, survive throughout the year. 

“The financial support for businesses needs to be stepped up in line with the devastating restrictions being placed on them. Otherwise, many of these firms may simply not be there to power our recovery when we emerge once again,” he said. 

“The government must move away from this drip-feed approach and set out a long-term plan that allows all businesses of all shapes and sizes to plan, and ultimately survive.” 

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Mr Bridge, who will also press the government on the job retention bonus to assist business costs and cash flow, said support must be widened to increase their chances of long-term survival. 

“Support must be sufficient to cover not just those on the front line of retail, hospitality and leisure, but also firms in supply chains and wider business communities who are also feeling the devastating impacts of these restrictions,” he added. 

“To be absolutely clear, it means additional support for businesses who’ve already had some help and first-time support for the millions who have had none.”