Labour warns of “perfect storm” for business amid ‘roadmap’ uncertainty

© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Ed Miliband has warned that a “perfect storm” is brewing for businesses amid increasing uncertainty over the lifting of public health restrictions originally set to take place on June 21st.

Commenting ahead of an update on the ‘roadmap’ out of Covid on Monday, the Shadow Business Secretary urged ministers to provide economic support to affected businesses should there be any change to the June 21st unlocking date.

He highlighted several approaching “pinch points” for business with quarterly rent due on June 23rd, the end of the ban on evictions on June 30th and the tapering of business rate support and start of furlough contributions on July 1st.

“Businesses have operated under historic uncertainty during this crisis, worsened by details of economic support playing catch up with public health announcements,” the Shadow Business Secretary said today.

“Now once again, businesses are in the dark, with a perfect storm of financial pinch points brewing and no reassurance from government that economic measures will remain in step with possible changes to the roadmap.

“It is right we remain guided by the science to tackle this virus, but businesses should absolutely not be paying the price for the government’s poor handling of our borders and the new variant.

“We’ve got to back businesses on our high streets and safeguard the recovery of local economies. Businesses should not have to worry for even one day that economic support will be pulled away whilst restrictions remain in place.”

According to the roadmap unveiled earlier this year, June 21st should see legal limits on social contact removed, with large events able to resume. Boris Johnson is due to announce on Monday whether the restrictions easing will go ahead.

Concerns have been raised over the unlocking following the spread of the Delta, or ‘Indian’, variant. The Health Secretary told a parliamentary committee on Thursday that the variant makes up around 91% of positive cases in the UK.

On delaying, Hancock said on Sunday: “We are absolutely open to doing that if that’s what needs to happen. We said in the roadmap that June 21 is the date by which we would not take step four before that date and that we would look at the data.”

Johnson told ministers on Tuesday that “we must continue to look at the data carefully ahead of making a decision on step four”. According to Whitehall sources, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is willing to accept a delay of up to four weeks.

From July 1st, commercial landlords will once again be able to start eviction proceedings against business tenants as the evictions ban lifts. 90% of debt owed to commercial landlords is owed by businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors.

According to the British Retail Consortium, two-thirds of retailers in the UK are at risk of legal action on at least one of their stores while around 40% of hospitality businesses have not reached an agreement on outstanding rent arrears.

12,000 hospitality premises closed permanently in Britain between January 2020 and March 2021 and, according to a survey by the Night Times Industries Association, nine in ten venues fear a delay to reopening will threaten their survival.

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