'Winter cash crisis': Labour calls for clear business plan ahead of lockdown changes

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
People walk in the rain past Christmas decorations in central London on November 20, 2020, as life under a second lockdown continues in England. - The current lockdown in England has shuttered restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops and services until December 2, with hopes business could resume in time for Christmas. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
People walk in the rain past Christmas decorations in central London on November 20, 2020, as life under a second lockdown continues in England. - The current lockdown in England has shuttered restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops and services until December 2, with hopes business could resume in time for Christmas. Photo: Tolga Akmen / AFP via Getty Images

The UK’s Labour Party has called on ministers to to set out a “clear blueprint for business” ahead of England’s lockdown being lifted on 2 December.

The opposition party said that many companies face a “Winter cash crisis” after a tumultuous year, which saw lockdowns and restrictions hit their balance sheets.

Labour says it is critical for the government to set out when businesses will know if they are allowed to re-open, on what basis they will be able to trade and under what restrictions, so that they can plan.

It argues such an announcement will allow businesses to plan ahead, stock up, notify staff and begin taking bookings.

The party also urges the government clarifies whether the guidelines for businesses that were in in place before the national lockdown will remain the same — if not, when the new guidance will be issued.

Finally, what financial support will be available for businesses in different tiers, and how ministers plan to plug the gaps for those excluded, including the self-employed.

Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow business minister, said: “Businesses are at the end of their tether and have very little slack in their budgets to risk reopening without a clear plan, due to mixed messages from government hitting cashflow and confidence.

“That’s why Ministers must end the dither and delay and urgently set out a blueprint for businesses desperate to plan ahead. The prime minister has wasted weeks on the Number 10 psychodrama, instead of putting a clear plan in place.

“This Government’s incompetence has cost struggling businesses far too much. Gaps in support mean many face a bleak Winter, whilst late guidance and shifting sands because Ministers haven’t got a grip on the virus, threaten the futures of so many more.”

It comes after, the UK government announced that England will go into new tiered restrictions when the second lockdown ends on 2 December, late on Saturday night. The tougher measures will mean more areas face severe constraints in order to prevent COVID-19 spreading further before the crucial Christmas period.

The prime minister’s office said it would set out a new winter plan on Monday, with more areas placed into higher restrictions according to the tiered system.

On Sunday, chancellor Rishi Sunak suggested on the BBC’S Andrew Marr show that the 10pm pub curfew could end on 2 December.

READ MORE: Business set for more uncertainty as tiered lockdowns loom for England

The party called on Boris Johnson to “focus on the country and not the Downing Street psychodrama” and make sure businesses and employees are informed of any changes in a “managed way.”

A statement should be made “through a statement to parliament, or at the bi-weekly press conferences — rather than on the front pages of national newspapers the night before” 2 December, the party said.

“Every day of lost trade threatens business viability at a crucial time of year. With only three weekends before Christmas in December, businesses cannot afford to only be told at the last minute whether the lockdown will end; whether guidance will change; and in what tier or under what social restrictions they will be operating,” Labour said.

Meanwhile shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds accused Sunak and Johnson of “wasting public money” during COVID-19 and a long-term failure to fix imbalances during the Conservative Party’s 10 years in power.

“After a decade of letting Britain down, people don’t want to hear more empty rhetoric and last-minute decision-making from this government,” she told Reuters.

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