Furlough extension welcomed but Government still needs to develop a plan

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Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce. File photo

FURLOUGH has offered a lifeline to many Warwickshire firms – but leaders of the business community have called on the government to come up with a clear plan to keep the economy going.

And they stressed the importance of using the current lockdown to improve the test-and-trace system, which they called “key” to long-term survival.

Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement that furlough would be extended to March would bring “much-needed relief to firms across the region”.

But she added: “Businesses across Coventry and Warwickshire really want to see a plan for how we can keep the economy open as much as possible because while the support is welcome, companies of all sizes and sectors really want the opportunity to invest and grow.”

The message was echoed by Adam Marshall, director-general of British Chambers of Commerce, who said: “These changes give businesses significant reassurance over an uncertain winter, but many will understandably still wish for the government to give a clearer view of the road ahead.

“Despite the chancellor’s announcement, there are still many businesses and individuals who have, through no fault of their own, been unable to access any government support since the start of the pandemic and will require support if we are to avoid significant increases in unemployment and business failures.

“Ultimately, there can be no substitute for a fully functioning economy. Fundamentally, that means the government using the time afforded to them through another lockdown to significantly improve the test, track and isolate system, which remains key to keeping the economy open.”

He warned that more generous grants would be needed by many businesses, adding: “Government must set out longer-term measures over the next 12 months to give firms greater certainty and confidence to plan proactively, rather than to react to changes in support from week to week.”