Chamber survey: frustrations and fears remain at a high

There is continuing frustration in getting promised government support for businesses which has been highlighted in the sixth weekly Suffolk Chamber of Commerce survey into how its members are responding to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

After an improvement the previous week, the numbers of Suffolk businesses rating these schemes, including the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), as not at all easy or not very easy to access has risen from 53% to 57%.

Comments from businesses experiencing difficulties include: “the Government has made generous statements, but the reality is they have moved slowly “, “the funding schemes have a lot of small print which means Government promises aren’t quite what they seem” and “there has been a slow and poor response from all finance houses.”

The survey, conducted yesterday (April 15) over a few hours, was completed by 134 Suffolk Chamber members of all sizes, market sectors and parts of the county.

Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber’s head of communications & campaigns, said: “It is frustrating that the progress being made recently seems to have come to a halt. This doesn’t bode well for when the Job Retention Scheme, allowing firms to furlough staff with the Government underwriting 80% of salaries up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, formally opens for claim submissions next week.

“Suffolk’s business need the reassurance that protecting cashflow and jobs will be as simple as possible.”

The survey once again highlighted the frustration of many smaller business owners that they don’t seem to qualify for CBILS or indeed any other of the current Government schemes.

Comments include: “CBILS is a complete joke. The banks want a 20% security deposit from company directors on any loan given as well as two years of perfect accounts” and “small one/two person businesses run through limited companies, often from home paying no business rates and taking mainly dividend income get no help at all!”

Mr Simon added: “It is heart breaking to read about the fear and frustration that so many of our members are experiencing. Suffolk Chamber will be using this evidence with renewed energy to ensure that the government simplifies processes and widens the eligibility for help for otherwise perfectly viable companies.”

This sixth Suffolk Chamber survey revealed that most other criteria measured had not significantly changed from previous weeks’ highs.

Business owners’ main concerns remain loss of income, declining profitability and the longer-term viability of companies.

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