CBI calls for clarity on lockdown exit strategy

The CBI is calling on the government to establish a clear pathway out of lockdown ahead of the ending of the current restrictions on 2 December. With England halfway through its second national lockdown, the CBI is urging the government to publish a detailed exit strategy and guidance with at least seven days warning which it says is vital to help business prepare, strengthen supply and boost consumer confidence. This should include forward guidance on what to expect from 3 December to help businesses protect jobs, transparent evidence for restrictions, and a formal review timetable.

Where closures or restrictions are still required, the CBI says there needs to be long-term certainty on the business support available to firms and their supply chains, in order to support investment and guide employment decisions.

Josh Hardie, acting CBI director-general, said: “As the end of the second lockdown in England approaches, planning and preparation is everything if businesses are to hit the ground running. For many firms, the start of December is their most important trading period. A clear, well-communicated exit strategy can help them salvage the best from a bad year.

“Public health must always be the number one priority. But that shouldn’t come at an unnecessary cost to the economy. Sensible notice of future changes makes it that much easier for a business’ ability to plan ahead, mobilising their supply chains and staff. Business wants a commitment to at least seven days’ warning of what future restrictions in England will look like from 3 December.

“We saw in Wales how forward guidance before the end of the circuit-breaker helped. It avoided an unnecessary scramble of firms struggling to work out if and how they can have premises open at the eleventh hour. Let’s learn from that.”

The CBI says there also needs to be regular updates of the mass testing pilots, as well as government co-ordination with firms on deploying rapid testing in workplaces, adding that a new approach to mass testing – including the involvement of businesses – could help keep the economy open and protect jobs until a vaccine is delivered.

Action at local level will also be key, and the CBI encourages local authorities to continue their close engagement with local businesses, to act quickly and transparently in the allocation of business grant funding. “Local authorities will have their part to play,” said Hardie. “They must continue to speak to local businesses to see where the need is greatest. The distribution of grant funding to businesses must be quicker, decisive and transparent.”

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