One in three Lancashire firms expect to cut jobs, worrying new survey reveals

As many as one in three Lancashire businesses are set to make redundancies as they try to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, a grim new survey revealed today.

Thursday, 4th June 2020, 3:50 pm
The coronavirus crisis has hit many towns and cities hard

More than 400 businesses from across the county responded to the “Beyond the Curve” survey run by the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and the East Lancashire Chamber at the beginning of May.

The survey asked businesses what measures they had taken to keep trading during lockdown and what support they might need as they try to rebuild over the coming weeks.

As well as making redundancies, 14 per cent of employers will also be asking staff to take wage cuts as they seek to improve company finances in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The survey also reveals that half of businesses have taken advantage of government-backed loan schemes to keep trading. Seventy per cent have furloughed workers through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Worryingly, the survey also shows that 54 per cent of businesses either have no cash reserves at all, or only enough reserves to cover them for three months trading - thus further highlighting the importance of the government’s fiscal support packages.

Babs Murphy, Chief Executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It will be some time before we can assess the full impact of the lockdown but there are clearly going to be significant job losses in the short-term.

"The Chamber of Commerce network has campaigned hard to get the furlough scheme extended as this will be crucial to protecting jobs and supporting the recovery in the months ahead.

“The ability to bring furloughed workers back part-time will be crucial for many businesses as they rebuild capacity. We’re delighted the Chancellor has listened to our members on this as well as our calls to extend the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

“The survey also shows that many businesses are having cashflow difficulties and we would urge everybody to try and pay suppliers as quickly as possible or offer extended credit terms if their finances allow.”

Miranda Barker, Chief Executive of the East Lancashire Chamber also commented: “Continued support from government and the banking sector will be key to business recovery over the coming months.

"Moreover, we must also encourage the whole of the Lancashire business community to try to rebuild our local supply chains.

“But most especially, we need strategic action to support our sectors under pressure to help diversify into new growth fields, such as rail, military aerospace, nuclear and low carbon technologies.”

*Meanwhile, one in five highly skilled freelancers expect to have to close their business because of the Covid-19 crisis, according to new research by University of Edinburgh Business School in association with the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed).

The study, which surveyed over 1,400 highly skilled freelancers (Standard Occupational Groups 1 and 2), found that three quarters of them had lost income, with an average income fall of 76 per cent. As a result, over two thirds say they now have cashflow problems.

The overwhelming majority (91 per cent) said they could not access the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), mostly because they work through a limited company.

Average stress levels in this group have increased by 80 per cent because of the coronavirus crisis.

The research was led by Prof Francis Greene and Dr Alessandro Rosiello from University of Edinburgh Business School and aimed at assessing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK to freelance workers.