U.K. Firms Tell Sunak They Need Urgent Help to Survive Lockdown

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak can’t afford to wait for the budget on March 3 to provide extra support for hobbled U.K. firms, according to the U.K.’s biggest business lobby group.

With Britain back in a severe lockdown, urgent action is needed to help companies survive, the Confederation of British Industry said in a letter to the Chancellor on Tuesday.

The group is calling for an extension of the government’s job support program to the end of June, rather than stopping in April, and a “commitment to targeted support thereafter.” It also wants to see the deadline for sales tax payments pushed back and a lengthening of the business-rate holiday.

“Many tough decisions for business owners on jobs, or even whether to carry on, will be made in the next few weeks,” said Tony Danker, director-general of the CBI. “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.”

The CBI’s plea is the latest in astring of calls from businesses and lawmakers for extra assistance, as the nation faces up to a lockdown that could last into March.

The government has already spent around 300 billion pounds ($383 billion) fighting Covid-19 and supporting workers and businesses, pushing the national debt above 2 trillion pounds for the first time. Sunak has repeatedly warned the current level of expenditure isn’t sustainable in the long term.

If more support is added before the Budget, the CBI wants Sunak to use the event to lay out plans for the transition to net-zero emissions to be used to drive the U.K.’s economic recovery, reform the business rate system and incentivize more spending on innovation and skills.

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