Tees Talk: what can the Government do next to support businesses?

In our latest weekly Tees Talk, we again focus on the coronavirus crisis and ask local business leaders what they feel the government could still do to help businesses.

Garry Lofthouse, director, Applied Integration

“The key thing for me would be for the government to ensure the banks play ball with the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. We need to streamline the process and make applications easier, just as the Swiss banks have done – let’s follow their lead.
“Cash is the lifeblood of business. We shouldn’t have to jump through hoops and be made to wait – businesses need support now. The Treasury recently announced it has only been able to approve 1,000 of the emergency loan enquiries it received. This is not good enough. Banks need to support all viable businesses, just as the taxpayer supported them during the banking crisis.”

Malcolm Knott, managing director, ITS

“I’d like the government to detail when businesses like mine will be able to look forward to receiving the furlough payments – at this point most people who’ve been furloughed believe the government is paying their wages without realising it’s actually their employer who is paying – and then making a claim from HMRC, which is likely to be end of May or start of June before funds are received – so the employer is funding this for a few months at least.
“Also I’ve looked at potentially purchasing specific Covid-19 related equipment such as 3D printers to print masks and face shields. What, if any, support would government be willing or able to make in terms of allowing business to offset those costs in future for businesses that make that type of purchase without it affecting any funding we might want to access for business-specific purposes outside Covid-19?”

Steve Maddren, director, Lucy Pittaway Gallery

“The Government have really stepped up to help workers, and this has eased the burden on business owners, but businesses with retail, office or manufacturing premises are still faced with huge monthly fixed costs such as utilities, insurance and rent. The banks have not made the Government-backed loans either accessible or on terms that many business owners would want to take.
“With an unknown end to the current lockdown and uncertainty of the economic climate on the other side of this crisis, business owners are often forced to take a huge risk on leveraging their own homes to try and keep their business going or cut their losses now, seeing the business fail and many employees lose their jobs. More pressure needs to be applied to the banks to support business.
“There is also little support in terms of income for business owners, which forces many to stay open to generate revenue where they may prefer to close. With high fixed costs, the decision for many is shut up shop and fail, or keep going in a scaled back capacity, placing themselves and sometimes workers in a position where they have no choice but to leave the home. If they don’t, those furloughed workers with three months of income security will have no job to return to.”

Nick Waites, principal, CP Waites

“I think some level of grant aid has to be made available for all small businesses that can demonstrate that they are a bona fide business and not a hobby, as there are unfortunately businesses that have slipped through the net where, for example, the business did not commence until after April 5 2019, average profits may be above £50,000 – even though they may be only slightly above – and those who trade through a limited company and own the shares in that company will most likely have taken dividends.
“Having said that, the Government are doing a great job in delivering funding and delivering it quickly.”

Dave Allan, director, Resolution Media & Publishing

“First and foremost, I have to say I’m astonished by the speed and depth of support the Government has given businesses. It’s important we don’t take that for granted because many businesses would already have gone under without such support.
“It seems clear that the self-employed who were advised to pay themselves via dividends through their own limited company need some sort of furlough support in the way that others have. Equally, the next big issue will be an extension to the existing furloughs if, as I suspect, the existing lockdown is updated considerably further.”


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