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Business

Chamber survey shows Cumbrian businesses on the brink of collapse

Rob Johnston

Cumbria’s economy would have imploded within three months had the Government not stepped in to pay salaries, a survey from the county’s Chamber of Commerce reveals.

Fifty-one per cent of respondents said their businesses would cease trading within three months if Coronavirus restrictions continue. Only 14 per cent could carry on for a year or longer.

However, most of the responses were filed before the Chancellor announced the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme on Friday, which covers 80 per cent of employers’ wage costs.

Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “This survey shows in stark relief how close we have come to catastrophe.

“Without the Job Retention Scheme, it’s clear that a huge number of Cumbrian businesses would have collapsed and many more would have shed staff.

“Even with the benefit of the scheme, some businesses will struggle to survive if the disruption continues for many months.”

Other findings from the Chamber’s survey include:

  • 67 per cent say the outbreak has had a ‘severe’ impact on their business while only 12 per cent say there has been little or no impact;
  • 80 per cent report reduced sales and 14 per cent have had problems sourcing goods or materials;
  • 63 per cent have, or plan to, lay off staff or reduce hours;
  • 72 per cent plan to access government grants or loans;
  • 52 per cent plan to use HM Revenue and Customs’ Time to Pay scheme to defer tax payments;
  • 42 per cent say some or all staff are working from home.

The survey was completed by a wide range of businesses in retail, tourism/hospitality, manufacturing, services, transport, construction, food and drink, professional services, digital and creative, agriculture and forestry, education, health, financial services, automotive, e-commerce, and the third sector.

It remains open at https://www.cumbriachamber.co.uk/news/28108-complete-our-coronavirus-survey

Rob said: “The Job Retention Scheme will provide a lifeline for many of these businesses. It’s important that HM Revenue and Customs gets it up and running as soon as possible.

“Likewise, the £10,000 grants that the Government has promised to businesses eligible for Small Business and Rural Rate Relief – it’s vital that these are paid quickly.

“Our survey also highlights the lack of support for the self-employed. Many find they’re not eligible for grants and don’t know how they’re going to continue. This is a gap in support that the Government needs to plug as a matter of urgency.”

The Chamber is setting an example by closing its office in Carlisle today – all staff are now working from home.

However, phone calls are being monitored and businesses can still access the Chamber’s Coronavirus toolkit – https://www.cumbriachamber.co.uk/news/27976-coronavirus-what-businesses-need-to-know – which is updated several times a day.

Almost 3,000 businesses have used the toolkit in the last week while 900 have downloaded the associated podcast.

Rob added: “The toolkit is a one-stop-shop of information to help businesses get through this crisis. I’d urge businesses to keep checking it for the latest information.”

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