UK employers demand action now to survive COVID crisis

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak attends a news conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus outbreak

LONDON (Reuters) – A British employers group demanded immediate action from finance minister Rishi Sunak after a record deterioration in business in the April-June period.

The British Chamber of Commerce said on Wednesday its quarterly survey of 7,700 firms found the share of companies reporting growth in sales was far below even the low point of the global financial crisis of 2007-08.

“Our results demonstrate the need for swift and substantial action,” the BCC’s director general Adam Marshall said. “The UK cannot meander its way back to success in this era of uncertainty.” 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised on Tuesday to fast-track infrastructure investment and slash property planning rules. The spending announcement of 5 billion pounds ($6.2 billion) amounted to around 5% of gross public sector investment last year, most of which had already been announced.

Sunak is due to announce more details of the government’s plans next week, on top of the 133 billion pounds of emergency measures he has rushed out mostly to keep people in their jobs.

However, Sunak has so far opted not to bring forward a major budget statement which is due in the autumn.

The BCC said its survey showed orders and investment intentions at record lows for services firms and manufacturers. 

Marshall called on the government to cut employers’ social security contributions and take other measures to help companies keep workers on their books after Britain’s huge state furlough scheme expires at the end of October.

Companies would need extra investment incentives and help to survive cashflow crunches in the form of wider relief from property taxes and more grants. The government should also take measures to stimulate consumer demand, Marshall said.

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