Thursday, December 3, 2020

Businesses in the dark on future coronavirus restrictions, says East Midlands Chamber

East Midlands Chamber has joined chambers of commerce nationally in calling for evidence and clarity for businesses as the Government mulls the future of coronavirus restrictions following the second national lockdown in England.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) in urging the Government to publish its approach to national coronavirus restrictions in England without delay, providing firms with:

· At least one week’s notice ahead of the scheduled end of the current national lockdown on 2 December

· Scientific evidence for any continuing restrictions on specific business sectors

· 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 BCC – which collectively represents over 70,000 firms of all sizes and sectors across Britain, employing six million people – is concerned about the lack of clarity over what form restrictions will take after the current lockdown.

BCC, backed by East Midlands Chamber, 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 5 November. 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.

East Midlands Chamber says Leicester and Nottinghamshire experiences highlight ‘appalling’ communication from Government

Scott Knowles, chief executive of East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire), said: “In the East Midlands, we’ve experienced local lockdowns for longer than any other part of the country.

“Leicester was placed under special restrictions at the end of June and had yet to come out of these before the second national lockdown, while Nottinghamshire was also placed under the most severe Tier 3 restrictions at the end of October.

“We’ve said from the beginning that we need clear communication from Government to allow businesses to prepare properly, but this lesson has yet to be heeded by the Government.

“Communication from Westminster has been nowhere near good enough throughout the pandemic. Leicester was effectively forgotten at one point as deadlines were missed in providing updates on the coronavirus restrictions imposed in the city and surrounding area.

“Nottinghamshire, meanwhile, has felt like a national afterthought in the way Tier 3 restrictions were imposed, with Government belatedly adding districts containing hundreds of thousands of people to the initial area and then delaying the start of their introduction – with scant detail on which businesses would be impacted.

“Informing people and businesses the day before restrictions are updated is frankly appalling treatment and doesn’t take into account how firms must organise staff and stock in their preparations to be open for business.

“Therefore, it’s absolutely imperative that the Government finally wakes up to the impact it is continuing to have on businesses through the communication of the decisions it is taking.”

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 2 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 5 November, and absolute transparency on what may happen from 2 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.”

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