Business leaders demand extended support as lockdown easing delay expected

Business leaders have called on the Treasury to extend financial support measures as they warn that Government plans to stall the lifting of lockdown restrictions will be a “blow” for Covid-hit firms.

The Prime Minister is expected to tell the nation that the road map easing earmarked for June 21 in England will be delayed for four weeks to July 19.

It is likely to mean that pubs, restaurants, cinemas and many other venues will continue to face limits on numbers and distancing restrictions, while nightclubs will remain shut.

G7 Finance Ministers meeting
Businesses are hoping that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will extend support measures (Alberto Pezzali/PA)

Dr Roger Barker, director of policy at the Institute of Directors (IoD), said: “Clearly this is a blow for many businesses, particularly those in the retail and hospitality sectors.

“We are now approaching a cliff edge, with Government support for business ending or beginning to taper off.

“It is vital that this support is pushed out commensurately with the lockdown extension.

“Economic support and public health measures must be aligned.”

A number of state financial support measures are due to alter at the end of this month, having been devised on the basis that all restrictions would be eased on June 21.

The ban on commercial rent evictions is due to end on June 30, while furlough will change from an 80% state contribution to 70% state contribution with employers having to cover the other 10%.

Business rates relief, which has eliminated all of the property tax for hospitality, retail and leisure operators, will also taper off to a 67% discount limited to £2 million at the end of the month.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), warned that a delay will make businesses in the sector “highly reliant” on Government support as they are already heavily burdened with debt.

He added: “We should not underestimate the importance of the 21st June to these businesses, employees, entertainers and freelancers.

“It’s a day when they should be given back their opportunity to trade, regain their livelihoods, careers, social wellbeing and the day that the Government is due to give culture back to the UK.

“Many of these businesses and individuals have adapted, overcome and survived for an exceptional length of time with the bare bones of support, and have arrived at this opportunity to find that it could be ripped away from them.”

Nigel Morris, employment tax director at MHA MacIntyre Hudson, said the Chancellor should consider changes to furlough if a delay is announced at 5pm.

He said: “The Chancellor does not need to change the end date of the scheme but just the phasing.

“Keeping Government contributions at 80% throughout July – instead of going ahead with the proposed reduction to 70% support for businesses with a mandatory 10% employer contribution – would be an enormous help given the delay to ‘Freedom Day’.”

Nevertheless, London’s markets were in a strong position on Monday morning.

The FTSE 100 was 0.4% higher at 7,162.5 points after early trading, although travel stocks were particularly weak.