Chamber boss slams Government's 'woeful' response to coronavirus crisis

The head of the North East’s leading business organisation has launched a scathing attack on the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Thursday, 6th August 2020, 5:32 pm

North East England Chamber of Commerce chief executive James Ramsbotham was speaking at the organisation’s annual general meeting today, Thursday, August 6.

He outlined members’ frustrations and disappointments with the Government’s performance: “Government’s actions have been woeful on a number of levels,” he said.

"One of my main concerns has been communication. This has been exceedingly poor, both in the manner of the message delivery and the appalling lack of clarity. It has created a heightened sense of alarm and widely damaged confidence.”

James Ramsbotham

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The level of support had fallen short of what was needed and the furlough scheme should heave been extended to cover self–employed people and those who took up new jobs in February/March

"Many hard-working businesspeople have had little to no financial support for the last five months,” said Mr Ramsbotham.

"The furlough scheme should also be extended for certain sectors such as hospitality and available for potential local lockdowns in the future.

“We also need Government to make sure schools and nurseries are at the heart of its economic strategy. People need to have certainty in their childcare provision to be able to go to work."

The approach to tackling the virus had also been a failure, he said: “Our country’s ‘track and trace’ process is simply not fit for purpose. We have heard from Chamber colleagues around the world where Governments have devised systems which create real confidence so people feel comfortable to go about their business and visit hospitality and leisure venues. Getting this system right is crucial to us getting the economy back on track.

“We also need Government to make sure schools and nurseries are at the heart of its economic strategy. People need to have certainty in their childcare provision to be able to go to work.

Uncertainty around Brexit and the risk of a ‘no deal’ outcome was a ‘massive threat’ to business: “Companies have prepared twice for previous deadlines, at tremendous expense,” said Mr Ramsbotham.

"Many do not have the cashflow to do so again.”

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