Survey shows need for ongoing coronavirus support for small businesses in Lancashire

A study from a Blackpool-based business group underscores the threat posed to millions of livelihoods by any sudden retraction of support for firms in the weeks ahead.

Sunday, 17th May 2020, 12:15 pm

The Federation of Small Businesses survey of 5,471 small business owners found that 44 per cent of North West businesses have been forced to close since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

Of those that have closed, 38 per cent of NW businesses are not sure whether they will ever reopen again.

For those small businesses paying a mortgage or lease on their premises, 34 per cent of NW businesses have failed to make, or faced severe difficulties in making, rent or mortgage repayments as a result of the pandemic’s economic impacts.

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Chris Manka

In response to the strain being placed on them, 41 per cent of NW small employers are considering, or have already made, redundancies.

And 74 per cent of small employers across the NW have furloughed staff to aid the survival of their business, illustrating the extent to which the Job Retention Scheme has protected the livelihoods of millions as economic activity has slumped.

As initial efforts are made to switch the economy back on, 70 per cent of NW businesses say the ability to partially furlough workers would benefit them.

f these, 47 per cent say they want to bring staff back gradually. FSB North West regional chairman Chris Manka said: “The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been felt right across the small business community, with thousands all over the UK fearing for their futures.

“Policymakers now need to realise that the economy will not go from zero to a hundred overnight once we’re into the recovery phase. The crucial support that’s on offer needs to be kept under review, and adapted to reflect the new normal as we chart a course back to economic recovery.

“Take the Job Retention Scheme. A big chunk of small business owners who have saved jobs by making use of it say the ability to furlough staff on a part-time basis – allowing them to work according to client demand and gradually come back into the workplace, whilst being supported by the scheme the rest of the time – would not only be helpful, it would save the firm."

The new study also highlights those within the small business and self-employed community that have struggled to access government-initiated support.

Among small firms that pay business rates, close to one in seven (15%) say their landlord charges them for rent and business rates in a single recurring bill, meaning they risk missing out on cash grants linked to the payment of rates.

The Government has now launched a discretionary fund aimed at helping those faced with this situation, though the vast majority (81 per cent) do not know what share of their single charge is accounted for by rates, making it difficult for them to establish what, if anything, they might be due.