CBI demands improvements in handling of local lockdowns
Ministers have been told that businesses want better communication, extra support and improved coronavirus test and trace services to help cope with the impact of local lockdowns.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) called for more clarity on what will trigger a lockdown and the improvements needed for one to be lifted.
Calling for a “no surprises” approach, the leading business organisation said firms’ reaction to the Government’s handling of local lockdowns so far had been “mixed at best”.
The CBI said any local restrictions should be set out during working hours, following criticism of Matt Hancock’s late-night announcement of restrictions on Greater Manchester and parts of West Yorkshire.
With firms already suffering because of the impact of coronavirus, the CBI warned that it was vital that further local lockdowns are handled properly because “business resilience is lower than it has ever been, with cash and stockpiles run down”.
The CBI’s six-point plan suggested:
– Increasing the visibility and awareness of the data trigger points used in making decisions to impose and lift restrictions, to help communities and businesses prepare.
-Timing announcements during working hours to minimise confusion and allow employers to engage with their staff quickly.
– Improving the clarity of the messages, saying what people can do as well as changes to what they can’t do, with maps setting out the affected areas.
– Identifying who is in charge of the lockdown and have a “go to” person for businesses to both access and provide information.
– Stepping up test and trace efforts, as developing a fully functioning system will lessen the likelihood of new restrictions in local areas being necessary.
– Setting up a framework for business support which could include help for firms struggling with staff absences due to self-isolation rules and a clear mechanism to channelling funds quickly through local authorities.
CBI UK’s chief policy director Matthew Fell said: “Local lockdowns are a crucial piece of the puzzle in how we manage the risk of infection and reopening the economy safely, so we must get good at them.
“The Government rightly needs to act fast on new information, so there will be limited notice, but we must aim for a ‘no surprises’ approach as far as possible.
“It would be fair to say that the local business reaction has been mixed at best on how they have gone so far.
“Not all restrictions are one-size-fits-all, as we have seen from the full lockdown in Leicester and the household-based restrictions in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and elsewhere.
“Each will have their own impact on businesses directly and indirectly, so we must get the building blocks in place to protect jobs, as well as lives.
“We are learning all the time, and now have more tools in our armoury to combat infection risks.
“But at the same time business resilience is lower than it has ever been, with cash and stockpiles run down.
“So we must get this right.”