29th Oct, 2020

GDP growth should not mask need for business support, warns regional Chamber of Commerce leader

Andy Morris 15th Jul, 2020

SUPPORT is still needed to help Coventry and Warwickshire businesses overcome the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic despite growth in the UK economy, a regional business leader has warned.

The Office for National Statistics’ GDP figures for May 2020 revealed that the economy grew month-on-month by 1.8 per cent, driven by sectors that were some of the first to emerge from the lockdown, such as house building and manufacturing – followed by retail which experienced record sales online.

However, GDP fell by 19.1 per cent in the three months to May 2020, following falls in both the three months to March and the three months to April 2020.

Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “While it is encouraging to see sectors such as construction and manufacturing – which are key to our region – showing glimpses of a recovery, we are nowhere near out of the woods yet.

“Businesses are operating in a vacuum of uncertainty – triggered by both the UK’s impending exit from the EU on 31 December, as well as the recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic – which is why it’s important that the unprecedented levels of financial support from the government should not grind to a halt.”

She said that while some redundancies would inevitably occur as elements of government support wind down, some firms the Chamber had spoken to from the warehouse and administration sectors are anticipating recruitment drives in the near future.

“We are also at a stage now where businesses are in the middle of forecasting what a post-Brexit environment will look like in terms of costs associated with moving goods across the UK/EU border, as well as the process to follow for recruiting overseas workers.

“We have started to gain greater clarity on these issues this month, which will enable firms to plan ahead with a greater level of confidence and we will be working with businesses to raise any concerns they have with MPs.”

Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said the modest growth in GDP would do little to alter the UK’s ‘historically downbeat growth trajectory’.

He said: “The pick-up in output in May is more likely to reflect the partial release of pent-up demand as restrictions began to loosen, rather than evidence of a genuine recovery.

“While UK economic output may grow further in the short term as restrictions ease, this may dissipate as the economic scarring caused by the pandemic starts to bite, particularly as government support winds down.

“Although some of the individual measures announced in the Summer Statement were welcome, more significant fiscal stimulus is likely to be needed to help kickstart a sustained recovery.

“This should include new incentives for business investment and reducing the overall cost of employment through a cut in employer national insurance contributions.”

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