Lancashire business leaders say Government's coronavirus aid must come rapidly to save firms

Business leaders have welcomed Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s unprecedented £330bn package of aid but warned the taps must be turned on now to save businesses.

Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 4:45 pm

The huge leisure and hospitality sector in Lancashire was grateful for the lifeline of a complete moratorium on business rates for a year and for those qualifying for the Retail Discount, the offer of grants of up ton £25,000.

The loans to businesses were also welcomed despite some worrying that debt-laden firms may be put under extra pressure come Autumn when repayments start.

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The litmus test will be based on whether these measures will get cash to businesses on the front line, fast.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing their 330bn aid package for British business

“For these interventions to have the desired impact, we need as a matter of urgency information on the practical details from this announcement, such as eligibility and accessibility.

“With so many businesses now experiencing wholesale disruption these measures could present a lifeline for many.

“Businesses will certainly welcome the scale of the Government’s latest response, as well as the specific support it is offering to some of the worst-affected parts of our economy such as tourism and leisure.

“It was heartening to hear that the Government would do whatever it takes over the coming days to support businesses, their employees, and the economy. Of course this is just the start, we expect further measures will be needed to help all firms and their employees meet this challenge.”

Paul Foster, from the Federation of Small Businesses in Lancashire, said: “The announcements are encouraging for Lancashire businesses who have been getting in touch in their droves to get updates and access FSB support.

“We have to make sure the cash gets into businesses this week and next week. Businesses need that cash injection urgently.

"We are pushing local authorities to step up their activities to cope with what we expect to be huge demand for the grants and hardship funds they are set to manage.”

FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry welcomed the an Employment Support Package to help small firms retian staff but said: “Small firms are having their futures threatened in the here and now.

“Some small businesses are already on the brink, they need time from landlords, HMRC and lenders over the next few days.”

But Luke Davis, CEO of investment house IW Capital, said: “The six month interest rate break offered on these emergency loans is helpful, but after this time SMEs will find themselves swimming in debt.

"Many start-ups and scale-ups will be operating at a loss already, as is the nature of these types of businesses. The Government perhaps should have offered grants rather than loans.”