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Somerset Chamber CEO signs BCC letter challenging PM to meet five business tests for COVID-19 restrictions

Somerset Chamber CEO Stephen Henagulph has joined fellow Chamber network chiefs to call on the Prime Minister to meet five business tests to limit the impact of Coronavirus restrictions on businesses and jobs.

In a letter to Boris Johnson from the British Chambers of Commerce Director General, Dr Adam Marshall, BCC President Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith and Chamber CEOs from across the United Kingdom, call for the implementation of business tests as part of a long-term approach to tackling the pandemic.

The letter from the Accredited Chamber Network – which collectively represents 75,000 firms of all sizes and sectors across the UK employing nearly six million people​ – comes following a week of increasing, regionally tiered restrictions, with more severe ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions under consideration, as the country battles a second wave of the pandemic.

Dr Marshall, Baroness McGregor-Smith and the Chamber Chief Executives challenge the Prime Minister to meet five business tests for current and prospective Coronavirus restrictions:

  • Are the restrictions evidence-based and targeted effectively?
  • Are the restrictions clear and do businesses have time to prepare? 
  • Is support for businesses commensurate with the impact on them? 
  • Will the time that the restrictions are in place be used to significantly improve the Test, Trace and Isolate system? 
  • Is there a clear process for increasing and decreasing restrictions? 

The letter reads: “While the recent announcement of an enhanced Job Support Scheme will assist some firms, Chamber members tell us it will not be enough to stave off mass redundancies and business failures.” 

There is also a clear warning that improving the government’s ailing test and trace system is the only way to get a grip on the virus over the long term and prevent economic paralysis. The letter reads: “The need for additional restrictions cannot be blamed on a lack of care by hardworking people in businesses across the country. Instead it represents a failure of the Test and Trace system, which must be urgently improved and expanded.”

Chambers are clear about the consequences of not meeting the tests. The letter continues: “These tests must be met – to avoid serious damage to business and consumer confidence, and potentially catastrophic economic consequences. We must preserve our economy in the immediacy, while also laying the foundations of future growth. Failure to do so will undermine any broader efforts to ‘level up’ left-behind parts of the UK.”

The letter concludes: “The Coronavirus is not going away anytime soon. The Government must waste no more time in setting out a clear strategy to keep the economy functioning, while protecting public health over the long term.”

The full letter can be read here.

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