Latest news from Surrey Chambers CEO June 2020
1st July 2020
Louise Punter-CEO Surrey Chambers of Commerce
Opening up the economy
Even over the last two weeks a great deal has changed in the world of business. People have started making their way back into their workplaces, non-essential shops have started trading and we are looking forward to the restaurants and hotels opening their doors this coming weekend. This is all very positive, however we cannot underestimate the damage that has been done to our local businesses. Surrey Chambers was part of a nationwide survey, co-ordinated by the British Chambers of Commerce. This has been running for many years so there is a great deal of historic data for comparison. The results of this survey of 7,700 firms, employing over 580,000 people across the UK, illustrates the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the UK economy in the second quarter of 2020.
Eleven of the 14 key service sector QES indicators fell to their lowest level in the survey’s 31-year history and the percentage balance of firms reporting increased domestic and export sales is now substantially lower than the worst quarter of the 2008-09 recession. Indicators for longer-term business performance, such as recruitment and investment dropped to record lows. In the manufacturing sector, nine of the 14 key indicators measuring activity in the sector dropped to its lowest level on record.
I would like to say that, as so often happens, Surrey results bucked the trend but unfortunately that is not the case so we have a great deal of work to help our businesses back to their former vibrancy.
So what should the government be doing to help?
With the economic impact of coronavirus laid bare in this survey, we have set out the measures firms need from the Chancellor’s economic statement due later this month, including:
- Supporting jobs through substantial reductions in Employer National Insurance Contributions
- Supporting cash flow through wider business rate reliefs and extended loan and grant schemes
- Supporting young people through wage subsidies for apprenticeships and work experience
- Supporting investment in productivity, people and carbon reduction through major incentives
- Stimulating demand, e.g. via targeted ‘restart vouchers’ for all UK households or a temporary VAT cut; and
- Streamlining regulatory processes to make life easier for businesses without compromising safety or the environment.
If we can get some of these asks agreed to we may be getting some way towards rescuing our economy.
We are in the process of launching some international trade training courses, with the outcome of ensuring that local businesses are upskilled in understanding exports and export documentation, whilst also being prepared for changes as a result of leaving the EU. We are also building the capacity in our own team to ensure we are ready to support businesses with the changes to documentation from 1st January 2021.
We continue to work closely with both Local Enterprise Partnerships (EnterpriseM3 and Coast2Capital) and the Local Authorities to make plans to support these challenging times ahead. We will be sharing funding opportunities as they become available as well as any business support which we want to make sure is accessible to all Surrey businesses.
Surrey Chambers of Commerce can be reached on 01483 735540, firstname.lastname@example.org, @surreychambers