Leaders back Chamber’s call for £2bn in returned Covid cash to be reallocated

10 December 2020

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s call for the Chancellor to ring-fence more than £2bn in returned Covid-19 support cash to aid the hardest-hit firms has been backed by a coalition of business and political leaders.

The Chamber wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week urging him to reallocate funds returned to the Treasury to support businesses in sectors that have been significantly impacted by the pandemic – and those who have missed out on existing schemes.

Major retailers such as Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Lidl and Pets at Home have in the past seven days agreed to send back around £2bn in business rates relief that had been claimed earlier in the year.

With Government yet to make clear what it intends to do with these funds, a number of key West Midlands leaders and stakeholders have added their voices to the GBCC’s appeal.

A new letter from the Chamber has been signed by regional politicians including Birmingham Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne, the Black Country and Coventry & Warwickshire Chambers of Commerce and a number of business owners and directors.

It calls on the Chancellor to:

  • Ring fence the funds from returned business rates relief, Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grants, other relevant government Covid-19 support and unspent Small Business and Retail, Leisure & Hospitality Covid-19 grant allocations and commit to using it to support businesses
  • Utilise this funding to enhance support for the businesses most in need – with a focus on providing cash to cover overheads of businesses required to close, the discretionary funds available for local authorities to target based on local need and delivering support for those excluded from current schemes

It also calls for action on wider measures including:

  • Targeted extensions to businesses rates relief for 2021-22
  • Removing the requirement to pay NI contributions of staff furloughed with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme among businesses required to close under tier two or three restrictions
  • Extension of VAT reductions through to the end of 2021-22
  • A further round of optional VAT deferral
  • Greater transparency on the evidence based for targeting restrictions at certain sectors, the economic impact of key measures and the criteria by which tiers will be reduced to allow businesses time to plan effectively

Read the full letter here.

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “The message from our members in the most impacted sectors is clear – resources and resilience are running low.

“For those businesses already missing out on Christmas trade and concerned about a potential post-festive period spike in cases, more action is needed along with clarity on the support that will be available to them next year.

“While this is our message to the Chancellor, our message to the local business community remains the same – look for ways to support each other this Christmas and beyond.

“Many of arts and cultural and hospitality members, while closed, have taken innovative approaches to adapting to online retail, delivery, takeaway and even digital performances.

“Our non-essential retail, personal care and other members have taken great strides to offer Covid-19 secure experiences and services. We can all play a part and #BackOurBusinesses.”

Henrietta Brealey, director of policy and strategic relationships at the GBCC, said: “Media attention is shifting to Brexit – and quite rightly too given scale of the potential long terms changes and potential impact on the regional economy at play here.

“But we cannot afford to forget that significant swathes of the business community remained closed at tier three or unprofitable at tier two. Some have been unable to effectively trade through no fault of their own since March.

“Many will also be impacted by any disruption to international supply chains following the end of the Brexit transition period.

“A vaccine is here, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but it is still some weeks or even months off population-wide roll out yet.

“We need the Government to #BackOurBusinesses, help them survive this short term dramatic disruption so that they are able to be part of the economic bounce back and jobs creation that will be so needed in 2021.

“While this letter focuses on Covid-19 support we are also ramping up activity around Brexit in coming days, more information on which can be found on the Brexit hub on the GBCC website.”

The GBCC’s letter has been signed by:

Paul Faulkner, CEO, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce
Steve Allen, President, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce
Louise Bennett OBE DL, CEO, Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce
Corin Crane, CEO, Black Country Chamber of Commerce
Sara Williams, CEO, Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce
Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP
Steve McCabe MP
Cllr Brigid Jones, Deputy Leader, Birmingham City Council
Cllr Jayne Francis, Cabinet member for education skills and culture, Birmingham City Council
Fred Grindrod, Councillor for Bournville and Cotteridge Ward, Birmingham City Council
Rich Bishop, Regional Chair, FSB West Midlands
Michele Wilby, Chief Executive Officer, Colmore Business District
Luke Crane, Executive Director, Jewellery Quarter BID
Julia Robinson, Bid Manager, Southside BID
Melanie Palmer, CEO, Solihull BID Co Ltd
David Alexander, Chairman, Alexander Accountancy
Chris Wheeler, Director, Auditel
Keith Stokes-Smith, Chairman of BCA, Birmingham Commonwealth Association Ltd and Hon Chair, Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce
Tony Lear, Director, Business Assist Ltd
Elaine Powis, Director, CLEANAVATOR LTD
Tom Mongan, President, Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce
Lyndsey Watson, Director, Crescent Motoring Services ltd
Steve Rogers, Partner, Dains LLP
Beverly Lindsay OBE. OD, DL, CEO, Diamond Travel
Deborah Leary OBE, CEO, Forensic Pathways Ltd
Jacalyn Datta, Chamber President, Future Faces Chamber of Commerce
Shaun Gray, European Managing Director, Ginho Europe
June Glackin, Creator of Utter Loveliness, Junie Poonie Events
Jason Challoner, President, Lichfield & Tamworth Chamber of Commerce
Prof Martin Levermore, Chief Executive Officer, Medical Devices Technology International Ltd
Pam Sheemar, Entrepreneur Development Manager: Entrepreneurship Team, NatWest
Irene Allan, Director, Opus Restaurant
Ben Ternent, Chef Director, Opus Restaurant Ltd
Ann Tonks, Managing Director, Opus Restaurant Ltd
John Pincombe, Director, Pink Print Solutions
Namrita Sharma, Business Owner, Pink Spaghetti PA Services Solihull
Kevin Johns, Managing Director, Prime Accountants Group
Gill Durkin, Business Development Director, PTP Training Ltd t/a Performance Through People
Victoria Miles, Owner, Redbeer’d Bar
Robert Elliot, Director, RisE 2020
Roberto Ross, Owner, Roberto’s Bar and Tasting Club
John Callaghan , Principal & Chief Executive, Solihull College & University Centre
Mani Hayre, Business Investment, Solihull Council
Marija Erzen, Owner, Solutions2 UK Ltd
Jo Ciriani, Director, Spaghetti Agency Ltd
Tracey Stephenson, Managing Director, Staying Cool at Rotunda
Phil Arkinstall, President, Sutton Coldfield Chamber of Commerce
David Mitchell, Managing Director, the marketing people
David Green, Director, The Mighty Shed
Amy Seton, Owner, The Whisky Clubs Group
Martin Clarke , Owner, TMC
Tony Elvin, General Manager, Touchwood Solihull
Neelam Afzal, Director/Solicitor, Wildings Solicitors