Coronavirus: Call for support for firms ‘falling through cracks’ of government help

The Institute of Directors (IoD) has called for help for companies and entrepreneurs currently “falling through the cracks” of government support amid the Covid-19 outbreak, saying the “marathon” has only just begun.

Fraser Sime of Bank of Scotland said it was unsurprising to see Scottish firms’ confidence dip as the pandemic evolves. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

The organisation surveyed more than 700 business leaders following the UK Government’s announcement of a job-retention scheme, with the proportion saying the outbreak posed a high or severe threat to their organisation coming in at seven in ten, up from two in ten in a similar poll a month ago.

Forty per cent of respondents had already contacted their bank about an emergency loan, while slightly more had contacted HMRC to defer tax payments.

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More than seven in ten directors have already seen demand for their products or services drop, including 42 per cent who had seen a major decrease.

The IoD added that based on the extreme disruption expected over coming months, with two-thirds of business leaders calling the outbreak a severe threat to the economy, support is needed in three areas. These comprise extending support to company owner-directors; encouraging co-operation from lenders; and help for firms without premises.

Consistency

Malcolm Cannon, national director of IoD Scotland, praised the actions of the UK and Scottish governments – but said “we need to see more consistency of key messages – both in terms of funding support and clarity on who qualifies as a key worker”.

He added: “Our members are exploring every avenue available to survive, but there are still steps that can and should be explored by our national and devolved governments to relieve some of this incredible pressure. We are only at the beginning of this marathon and so I urge our leaders across the country to come together – as many in the business community are – to provide greater clarity and a united message.”

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Meanwhile, the latest Business Barometer from Bank of Scotland (BoS) commercial banking found that business confidence in Scotland fell 22 points to -7 per cent, and across the UK saw its lowest dip since December 2011 – all in the first two weeks of March before the UK went into lockdown mode.

Fraser Sime, regional director for Scotland at BoS, said it was unsurprising to see Scottish firms’ confidence dip as the pandemic evolves. “We’ve committed to lend up to £18 billion to businesses this year and have set aside £2bn of arrangement fee free finance to help those directly impacted by Covid-19.”

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