The BCC is calling on the government to help businesses rebuild

The British Chambers of Commerce has published a set of recommendations to help businesses build back stronger post-pandemic.

Optimism has grown since lockdown restrictions have started to ease, but businesses are still worried about the months ahead.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has created a report outlining proposals to help businesses build back stronger.

It focuses on five key areas:

  • Manage the virus response in a way that helps businesses survive and thrive
  • Economic health and investment
  • Build an ambitious global trade strategy
  • Skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow
  • Invest in the places where we live, work, study and play

Let’s see what they had to say.

>See also: Sunak ignores small business pleas for more help to get through lockdown

Manage the virus response in a way that helps businesses survive and thrive

UK-wide co-ordination of virus management and recovery, ensuring consistency of approach across nations

Set out a long-term Coronavirus testing strategy so businesses can plan with confidence

Set out contingency plans for future virus response so businesses can invest in their future with confidence

Economic health and investment

Require lenders to accept requests from Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan customers for the term of their loans to be extended from six to up to ten years

Introduce a blended approach to businesses’ Coronavirus-related debt, including a student-loan style option, so firms only pay back debt accrued as a result of the pandemic when they have reached a threshold of profitability

Expand the super deduction as an investment incentive so more and different firms can take advantage of the scheme

Double the investment in start-up loans from £250m to £500m to meet anticipated demand from new business start-ups

Build on the progress to date and work with Accredited Chambers to deliver a Shared Prosperity Fund which has a clear purpose and role for business, takes account of in-depth local knowledge and which is designed and capitalised to deliver real-world improvements.

It is vital that the Community Renewal Funds are taken forward as quickly as possible. To deliver the maximum impact for regional prosperity, the government must work carefully with Accredited Chambers of Commerce and other business groups from those areas.

Finally, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund must be capitalised to match all the previous structural and investment funding, including ‘match’ funding by the UK government and Local Authorities.

Build an ambitious global trade strategy

Review new processes resulting from the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) and work with the EU to simplify/streamline, in order to reduce the burden of paperwork and prevent delays. Focus initially on areas where businesses have the greatest difficulty, such as VAT and Rules of Origin.

Enhance the SME Brexit Support Fund by increasing the maximum payment per company to significantly above the current threshold of £2,000 and extending the scheme to June 30 2022.

Build a coalition of support around a UK trade and investment strategy, bringing together the network of public and private sector organisations working in this space around a shared ambition and shared goals.

Skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow

Deliver on the recommendations of the Workplace Training and Development Commission, including:

  • Enabling SMEs to understand their own skills needs and identify and invest in the right training options for their teams
  • Rapid roll out of the Local Skills Improvement Plan process across England
  • Increased access to digital skills training and bespoke support for digitisation of processes and automation
  • Access to modular, ‘bite-size’ units of accredited learning to help adults gain new skills more quickly
  • Support for individuals to retrain for sustainable careers, including the provision of an all-age, high quality careers information, advice and guidance service

Ensure young people who have left school have access to training which enables them to catch up on lost learning, including essential maths, English and digital skills, as well as the softer employability skills such as communication, teamwork and resilience.

Expand funding for technical qualifications, including funding for the National Skills Fund to £6bn.

Reform the rules governing the right for foreign nationals to work in the UK by expanding the Shortage Occupation List (‘SOL’) for at least 12 months for sectors where we face immediate labour shortages, such as care workers, and by extending the Seasonal Workers Pilot.

Extend incentive payments to employers to encourage the take up of key programmes designed to give young people the skills and experience they will need.

Invest in the places where we live, work, study and play

Deliver an infrastructure revolution which creates jobs, opens up opportunities to access training and work, and increases greener transport – this should include completion in full of the HS2 ‘Y’ network

Go further than the outcome of the Williams-Shapps Plan and introduce truly flexible fares that work for passengers, whatever their travel needs

Support regional airport capacity by providing a 12-month Business Rates holiday while they get back on their feet, by reinstating the VAT Retail Export Scheme and by reducing the cost of testing for international travellers.

Simplify childcare funding by introducing a childcare budget for every family, giving them the freedom to choose the right model for their individual circumstances and the support needed for parents to work.

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Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.