Plugging the gaps to get cash to businesses

Wed, April 15th, 2020

Paul Cherpeau, Chief Executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce:

It’s been four weeks since the Chancellor delivered his budget. It may as well have been a decade ago.

A month on and we’re now beginning to fully understand the challenges the Chancellor and his team faced in trying to tackle both a public health and an economic emergency. The schemes he announced then, and in the following weeks, have not been as robust as the business community hoped for (or I am sure as he intended), supporting some businesses but leaving others without a credible lifeline. The Chamber is collecting testimonials from businesses about the accessibility and responsiveness of all schemes and we are hearing stories of successes and failures and of praise and frustration.

Cash provision and reserves in businesses remain an absolute necessity. The Business Interruption Loan Scheme has proven substantially underwhelming thus far, with feedback suggesting that both the amounts awarded and the timescale involved are simply insufficient to meet immediate need.

The Job Retention Scheme, though welcomed by so many businesses, still contains fundamental gaps within provision for companies set up through limited companies and maximising dividend above salary. There is also the fast approaching cash crunch of April pay day which requires HMRC readiness with the reimbursement of salaries on the furlough scheme as promptly as possible.

The self-employment scheme has largely excluded newly self-employed enterprises and limited companies whilst no cash will reach bank accounts until June at the earliest.

Business rates relief cash has started flowing from the local authorities but systemic obstacles are preventing greater flow of grants to several businesses who are facing closure, particularly in the leisure and hospitality industry. There are also considerable challenges for those not covered by these schemes due to their company size.

A business rates holiday for mid-sized firms and an expansion of income protection support for company directors in limited firms are both important next steps to help plug some of the gaps within the announced packages of support.

It is not all negative however and the Chancellor should be applauded for putting in place ambitious schemes to support business through Covid-19 but in the long term they will be judged on how successful they were in supporting long term economic growth in what will be one of the most challenging fiscal periods in our recent history. Our message to government therefore, through the British Chambers, is to maximise the capacity at the coalface to ensure businesses on the front line have access to the cash they need to survive and prosper. This requires some flexibilities and adjustments to schemes but ultimately history will judge it as a positive and rewarded investment rather than an additional burdensome cost.

If you would like to share your experiences of accessing any of the government schemes (in confidence) please mail me at

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