CBI urges gov to act on COVID-19 business support

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has urged the government to act on COVID-19 business support before the upcoming 3 March Budget.

It has also outlined actions that should be taken at the Budget itself to “build a bridge” to a sustained economic recovery - with comprehensive reform of the business rates system top of the list.

Ahead of the Budget, the CBI wants to see action on:

-Extending the Job Retention Scheme beyond April to the end of June and a commitment to targeted support thereafter to give firms the certainty they need to protect jobs

-Lengthening repayment periods for existing VAT deferrals until June 2021 at the earliest and allow businesses, including retailers, to defer Q1 2021 VAT bills due now for twelve months

-Extending the business rates holiday for at least another three months to those UK companies forced to close under current restrictions and expanding relief to their supply chains

-The CBI also wants to make sure local authority discretionary grants are in businesses’ bank accounts by the end of February 2021

Tony Danker, CBI director-general, said: “The government’s support from the very start of this crisis has protected many jobs and livelihoods and progress on the vaccine roll-out brings real cause for optimism.

“But almost a year of disrupted demand and extensive restrictions to company operations is taking its toll. Staff morale has taken a hit and business resilience has hit a sobering new low.”

He said: “Many tough decisions for business owners on jobs, or even whether to carry on, will be made in the next few weeks.

“If the government plans to continue its support then I urge them to take action before the Budget which is still more than six weeks away.”

For the Budget itself, CBI demands include:

-Delivering comprehensive reform of the business rates system to support struggling High-Streets and level-up business investment across the UK

-Freezing the Universal Business Rate (UBR) for the remainder of the current revaluation period and lowering it at future revaluations to a more sustainable level

-Removing transitional arrangements which prevent businesses from benefiting immediately from a reduction in property values and allowing businesses to more easily access relief for partly occupied properties

-Introducing a new R&D tax credit for capital expenditure and reduce match funding requirements for R&D grant funding to spur business innovation

-Delivering an ‘Invest to Grow’ scheme to spur SME spending on productivity enhancing digital

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