Following the introduction of the ‘three-tier’ local restrictions in England, the CBI has been urging government to provide greater clarity for firms, alongside greater collaboration with local government. The CBI has also been engaging with national, local, and devolved administrations to ensure financial support is in line with restrictions.
Further to this, the CBI has continued to make the case for widespread testing to boost public confidence and has outlined the need for compromise in the UK-EU negotiations.
Ensuring financial support matches the needs of firms impacted by local restrictions
Last week, the Prime Minister laid out government’s three-tiered approach to local lockdowns for England.
Since the new restrictions were announced, further parts of the country have moved into higher restrictions, with London, York, and parts of Essex, Derbyshire and Cumbria moving into Tier Two. Those in Tier Three include Lancashire and the Liverpool City region. From this Friday (24 October), Greater Manchester will also move into Tier Three, with South Yorkshire entering the higher restrictions from Saturday (25 October).
While business supports the ‘three-tier system’ for COVID-19 restrictions in England, any restrictions which mandate business closures, whether local or national, must go hand in hand with financial measures which protect livelihoods.
This is the message the CBI has been commuting to national and local government’s including the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, Liverpool City Region Mayor, Steve Rotherham and Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham.
On 22 October, the CBI joined a hospitality sector roundtable alongside the Chancellor. Following that meeting, the Chancellor announced a new package of support for struggling firms.
The Chancellor’s announcement included extra help to retain staff, with the government significantly increasing its contribution to wage costs under the Job Support Scheme, and business contributions dropping to 5%. This supports those businesses that can remain open in Tier Two but are experiencing a decrease in demand due to restrictions. The Chancellor also expanded business grants - channelled through local authorities – to target those most in need of support. Finally, for the self-employed, grants will be doubled to 40% of previous earnings.
While the CBI welcomed the increase in financial support for businesses and workers, more collaboration between business, central and local governments - with an emphasis on clear and consistent communication - is required to help firms plan.
Boosting passenger confidence on transport
Alongside calling for business support to be in line with local restrictions, the CBI has been continuing our campaign for widespread testing, which will particularly boost passenger confidence in the aviation sector.
At the CBI’s virtual leaders' dinner, CBI President Lord Bilimoria highlighted the importance of government and business collaboration when it comes to testing, transport and aviation policy.
Following Lord Bilimoria, Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, discussed how business and government can work together to boost public confidence in using public transport networks when the UK emerges from COVID-19.
Further to this, Mr Shapps spoke about the government’s vision for ensuring the transport sector builds back better from the pandemic, with a particular focus on decarbonising transport.
Calling for political leadership on both sides of UK-EU negotiations
Elsewhere, and following little progress at the European Council which ended on 16 October, the CBI has been engaging privately with both sides of the negotiations. During the CBI’s engagement, including the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the CBI consistently called for political leadership and compromise.
Publicly, the CBI - along with 71 trade associations (TAs) and professional bodies - called on the government to secure a deal. This intervention, which covered every sector from automotive to farming, highlighted the jobs and livelihoods that rely on a deal being secured.
Following the intervention, there has been movement in talks with the UK government reiterating they are still open to intensive talks with the EU. Further to this, the EU has confirmed that they are open to discussing legal texts to unblock the impasse.
After four years of negotiations and so many hurdles crossed, this is no time to give up and a deal is the only outcome that protects COVID-hit livelihoods at a time when every job in every country counts.