More businesses in the UK are laying off staff as they start to run out of cash and struggle to get access to emergency coronavirus financial support from the government, a leading employers’ organisations has said.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said its weekly survey of how firms were coping with the Covid-19 crisis found an increase in the number planning to furlough workers as a result of the economic lockdown.
The employers’ organisation said only 1% of firms responding to its survey had secured a loan under the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) while 7% had received one of the grants offered by the Treasury for small businesses.
The survey found little change in the dire cashflow problems facing many companies, with 57% of firms having three months’ cash in reserve or less, and 6% reporting they had already run out of money.
Firms responded to the survey between 1 April and 3, a period in which the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, loosened the criteria for a CBILS loan, banned banks from asking for personal guarantees from small businesses seeking help, and made more mid-sized companies eligible for help.
The BCC said the changes were much needed because 37% of respondents said they were planning to furlough between 75% to 100% of their workforce over the next week, up from 32% last week. The proportion planning to furlough 100% of their workforce rose from 17% to 20%.
Adam Marshall, the BCC’s director general, said: “Our latest data shows that many businesses face a cliff-edge scenario, either at the end of this month or over the course of the next quarter.
“We’ve seen a big jump in the number of firms furloughing staff, and many are now starting to apply for access to government loan and grant schemes to keep themselves afloat. Yet our research suggests that support is only starting to reach firms on the ground.
“We are pleased that the chancellor is listening and responding to our calls to strengthen the existing support. Improvements to the CBILS scheme should help more businesses get access to the cash they need over the coming days and weeks. This could be the difference between survival and insolvency for many firms.”
Marshall added: “Every minute counts, and governments, local authorities and banks must do everything in their power to ensure support gets to firms on the front line more quickly.”