Businesses facing ‘desperate situation’ as lockdown survey reveals closure fears

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About six out of 10 businesses in Hampshire say they are at risk of going under

FIRMS are facing a “desperate situation”, the chairman of the New Forest Business Partnership has warned, after a survey revealed six out of 10 in Hampshire believe they are at risk of going under.

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Matthew Lawson said he knew many were “increasingly concerned” about how long they can keep going, with not all able to access government help.

“In this desperate situation, their only option is to make staff redundant and to close the business, which is particularly frustrating when it is an otherwise viable business but simply not able to trade due to the current restrictions,” Mr Lawson added.

His comments come after the first part of an online survey by Hampshire Chamber of Commerce showed 57% felt at risk of closure or insolvency, despite state intervention, and most saying the next three months are the critical period.

The survey attracted 110 respondents, including service companies and manufacturers, with most having less than 50 workers and over half employing 10 or fewer.

Nearly seven out of 10 had furloughed some or all of their workforce, with 20% forced to lay people off. Home working had been introduced by nine out of 10 respondents.

On furlough, 55% were accessing the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to claim wage contributions and 24% were planning to use the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Ross McNally, the chamber’s chief executive and executive chairman, said: “Our members are doing all they can to safeguard jobs and stay afloat in one of the most extreme crises anyone in business has ever faced.

“The government’s measures are, of course, welcome but they must be available on the ground quickly and immediately to minimise job losses and business failures.

“We call on ministers to continue business support while safely reopening the economy in stages in line with medical advice.

“Beating the virus remains the top priority. Once that is done, we stand ready to return to our workplaces, rebuild customer bases and reopen supply chains.

“We must be confident that in time we can maintain our economy on a high-growth, high-wage and high-employment trajectory.”

Hampshire Chamber has just launched the second part of the survey, including more questions about accessing government support, at www.tinyurl.com/y996teo5

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