The Confederation of British Industry warned of a “lockdown by stealth,” as Britons subsequently began steering clear of social gatherings and hospitality venues. The CBI and other industry bodies have said that businesses will need a fresh support package, akin to those delivered by the Treasury during earlier Covid-19 restrictions, in order to survive.
A Government source said: “We’re not in the same position financially as we were last year. We have to be incredibly precise about what funding is needed and where.”
Some industry bodies are pushing for an increase in cash grants to mitigate against significant losses that businesses expect to suffer over the next fortnight. Others are focusing on urging Mr Sunak to revive the emergency rate of 5 per cent VAT for hospitality and tourism firms, and to reinstate the 100 per cent business rates relief for retail companies “to give businesses the financial headroom to weather this challenging period”.
Last night, the Chancellor was said to be considering all of the options, while “trying to work out what is the best support, where is it needed and for how long?”
As some scientific advisers lobbied for more restrictions to be introduced as soon as this week, Mr Sunak was also having to consider what further help businesses may require if Mr Johnson opted to introduce new, as yet unspecified, measures.
Government advice on social interaction
Last week, Prof Whitty said at a Downing Street briefing that people should “prioritise the social interactions that mean a lot to them” in the following weeks. Mr Johnson said that the public should “think carefully” before attending any social gatherings, especially those involving strangers.
Meanwhile, a report by the Conservative Policy Forum (CPF) called on ministers to “work towards a smaller government with fewer laws and regulations”.
The report, which has been passed to Downing Street and senior ministers, is based on a survey of 83 local Conservative Policy Forum groups across the country, representing almost 700 Tory members in 140 constituencies. It will add to pressure on Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak from Conservative backbenchers to resist the draconian Covid-19 restrictions that led to a revival of vast handouts to businesses and workers, such as the furlough scheme.
‘Fundamental Conservative principles’
According to the paper, two in three CPF groups (68 per cent) agreed that “Government intervention has fostered a sense of entitlement” and warned of the “uphill task to restore expectations.” Members are said to have stressed the importance of ministers adopting “fundamental Conservative principles” like “freedom, personal responsibility and a light touch by the state” in order to keep the party in power.
Many suggestions were volunteered by multiple groups, with members warning that the tax system was “too complicated” and in need of reform.
A summary of the report added: “Members would encourage government in its efforts to ‘pursue a policy of strong economic growth through incentives for free enterprise.'”
Those taking part in the groups also expressed concerns about backlogs that had arisen in the NHS and schools due to the pandemic.