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    Keep the taps running, Rishi

    26 February 2021 – With just a week to go until you announce your Budget, like many business owners, I am worried that a move into austerity might derail the recovery.

    I understand that the Government has spent an extraordinary amount of money protecting jobs and businesses. At last count, the bill is more than £280bn. But we need to keep the taps running a little while longer.

    This is crunch time for many UK companies. Even with the various COVID-19 loans and schemes, those in crisis-hit sectors have been haemorrhaging cash for months. Just look at the plight of PureGym, which only managed to open its gyms three months out of 12 and is currently losing half a millions pounds a day.

    I hope that your budget takes into account the fact that businesses will soon have to start paying off the CBILs and bounceback loans. They will also have VAT to repay. Meanwhile, the value of many companies has taken a nosedive: founders of profitable companies now find their equity is almost worthless.

    I have heard that the government estimates two-thirds of all bounceback loans will not be repaid. Would it be such a bad idea to scrap all that debt altogether?

    The Eat Out to Help Out scheme gave a helping hand to many businesses in the hospitality sector last year. The government needs to bring back the scheme – and more like it. I support those calling for an extension to the 5% VAT rate for businesses operating in hospitality, holiday accommodation or attractions. These companies need time to get back up and running before they have the resources to pay the full rate.

    Growing businesses like BigChange also need to be supported as they create the jobs that will help pull this country out of the crisis. We currently have 40 vacancies for jobs at all levels within the businesses. We want to create even more roles over the next few months. We are focused on helping as many young people as we can into meaningful careers. Young people have been hit hardest by the pandemic, and the government needs to help the private sector create opportunities through work placements and other schemes.

    I don’t believe that an extension to the furlough scheme is what this country needs. Too many people have been on the scheme too long, and are suffering from the combined effects of skills fade and a crisis of confidence. It’s time to let those people retrain and rethink their future or find new jobs.

    We also need the Government to put pressure on the banks to be kind. They need to give companies a little breathing space, more time to pay down debt, and fair terms on credit.

    Please, don’t forget the third sector in your Budget. Charities have also been struggling over the past year. Donations have fallen even as the need for their services has reached peak levels.

    Rishi, I know that the Government needs to try and refill the bare public purse but please don’t let more good businesses and charities suffer in the process. I hope that you will make the right decision for the economy and the nation’s hard-working business owners. We’re all in this together and we’ll only get out of it together.

    Martin Port

    26th February 2021

    BigChange

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