Sir Ed Davey, acting co-leader of the Liberal Democrats, has called on the Chancellor to “go much further to protect small businesses and the self-employed,” while urging supermarkets to ensure they “treat their staff, their suppliers and above all their customers fairly”. The MP for Kingston and Surbiton’s intervention comes at a time of worldwide panic as the figures of those dying and contracting the killer coronavirus rises. The Chancellor was forced to implement emergency measures on businesses, after the Government announced it would no longer encourage people to use retail, leisure or hospitality businesses.
Many firms’ fears surrounded how these businesses would cope and how staff working in those industries would be paid.
In his proposal, Mr Sunak said the Treasury would “give all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England a 100 percent business rates holiday for the next 12 months”.
And although his pledge was welcomed by some businesses – including Sainsbury’s which has seen its share price rocket – others including Sir Ed believe that more has to be done to protect employees.
Mr Sunak’s pledge to support firms such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco comes as customers in their shops have surged.
Rishi Sunak ‘must do more for small firms’ amid fear supermarkets could ‘cash in’ on virus
Mr Sunak in a cabinet meeting
In the UK, supermarkets have made announcements they would only be able to sell a certain number of products to each customer – such is the demand for items such as toilet roll and hand sanitiser from the public.
So at a time when more people than ever are using big businesses, many believe more be done to help small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Sir Ed said: “Supermarkets need to treat their staff, their suppliers and above all their customers fairly. Ministers need to make crystal clear to the supermarkets that the country expects them to do their bit in this national crisis and not profiteer.
“It’s likely the supermarkets may need more staff not less and so they can play a role in helping people who have lost their jobs.”
Rishi Sunak before he made his first budget as Chancellor
On the discussion of how far the Government needed to go to support others, he added: “Ministers need to go much further to protect small businesses and the self-employed – from helping with their wage bill to ensuring that businesses whose insurance doesn’t cover pandemics are fully compensated for business interruption.
“It is not right that hard working SMEs that have paid into their insurance schemes for decades now find themselves exposed.
“Second, the Chancellor must go a step beyond the loan schemes he announced and give struggling SMEs the option to turn their loans into grants if their survival depends on it.
“Thirdly, for those made redundant due to the virus, the Government must follow the example of countries like Denmark and guarantee their pay for 20 days, lending them a hand until they find their next job.”
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Sir Ed Davey has been critical of the plan
Mr Sunak made his vow during a press conference on Tuesday, a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his stance on people no longer carrying out “non-essential travel” or encouraging people to partake in social activities such as going to the pub.
Mr Johnson’s position sparked a downturn in the stock markets, but was also heavily attacked by owners of firms such as restaurants who claimed they did not know whether to stay open or closed.
The Chancellor told reporters before making his landmark announcement on March 17 that the UK was faced with “an economic emergency” and that “never in peacetime have we faced an economic fight like this one”.
Alongside his 12-month business rate holiday for businesses pledge, he also promised funding grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 for small businesses.
He also said that for those struggling with finances as a result of the coronavirus, mortgage lenders would offer a three-month mortgage holiday.
He is currently the acting co-leader of the Lib Dems
At the time, he added: “This is not a time for ideology and orthodoxy, this is a time to be bold, a time for courage. I want to reassure every British citizen this government will give you all the tools you need to get through this.
“That means any business who needs access to cash to pay their rent, their salaries, suppliers or purchase stock will be able to access a Government-backed loan or credit on attractive terms.
“And if demand is greater than the initial £330billion I’m making available today, I will go further and provide as much capacity as required.”
Despite praise for Mr Sunak’s decision, some experts warned that those looking to borrow money will ultimately have to pay it back.
Speaking to the BBC earlier this week, the broadcaster’s personal finance correspondent Simon Gompertz said: “The result is that you have some breathing space but when you resume payments the amount will be adjusted to be slightly higher, because the missed interest payments have been added to the loan.
“This doesn’t mean the mortgage holiday is a bad idea.”
Published at Thu, 19 Mar 2020 10:28:00 +0000