Small firms call for back to work vouchers as PM outlines new responsibilities

Responding to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s press conference this afternoon, during which he set out new legal requirements for small businesses in England regarding the containment of coronavirus, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry, said:

“Safety has to come first, and small businesses have already spent thousands of pounds on ensuring their premises are secure before reopening.

“This fresh round of responsibilities will take time, money and manpower away from day to day business activity at an incredibly challenging time. Small firms absolutely want to play their role in containing the virus – with the vast majority suffering a severe hit to cashflow over the past six months, they urgently need financial assistance to play that role effectively.

“That’s why we’re calling for back to work vouchers for small firms: giving them the funding they need to put the right measures in place. With the new data collection obligations announced today, these vouchers are needed all the more urgently.

“We hope that, as they take on fresh powers, local authorities and covid-secure marshals work in a spirit of cooperation and understanding. Small firms want to do the right thing, and incentives and support mechanisms mark a more productive way forward than fines and forced closures.          

“The announcement of additional cash injections for those faced with local lockdowns is hugely welcome. We look forward to working with local authorities on the development of a swift, accessible claims system. Lessons should be learnt from areas where grants have reached firms quickly in recent months.  

“Policymakers now need to look at how they can extend such support to firms which are still unable to reopen due to national restrictions, not least those at the heart of our night-time economies, as well as those that supply to businesses that have been forced to shut, but haven’t themselves been required to do so.

“Many have been helped by the Government’s support measures but some – including company directors and the newly self-employed – have not. A rescue package for those left out is urgently needed.       

“We’ve always said that a robust test and trace system is central to getting firms firing on all cylinders again. The Salford pilot sounds like a promising step forward in this regard.

“This will be a challenging end to the year for small firms everywhere. The Treasury will need to deliver an ambitious Budget in the weeks ahead – one that eschews tax rises for businesses and the self-employed and brings down the costs of starting-up, hiring and expanding.”   

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