London SMEs are calling on the Chancellor to announce an extension to the furlough scheme when he delivers his Budget tomorrow, according to the latest data from Lloyds Bank’s Business Barometer research.
When asked which initiative would be most beneficial to helping their firm trade this year, more than a fifth (22%) of London SMEs said an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or the introduction of a new scheme to help them retain employees.
Almost a fifth (18%) said they hoped tax holidays would be included in the package of measures announced by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, while one in six (16%) said they hoped a cut in the VAT rate would be included.
Although more than half (52%) of those polled said they were either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ optimistic that their firm could trade solvently through 2021 without the support of Government schemes, 17% were ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ optimistic. More than a quarter (26%) were undecided, saying they were neither confident nor not confident.
The research also revealed the COVID-19 support measures that London businesses had already made use of during the past year. More than two-fifths (41%) had used the furlough scheme, while 15% had accessed Government-backed emergency business funding, for example a Bounce-Back Loan or finance through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. One in eight (13%) had claimed relief on business rates.
Notably, nearly a third of respondents (30%) said their business had not needed to access any of the Government’s COVID-19 support schemes so far.
Mark Amis, regional director for London at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Despite the obvious optimism for the months ahead caused by last week’s roadmap out of lockdown announcement, it’s clear that for many London SMEs further support is required to help them emerge from the pandemic in as strong a position as possible.
“Whatever comes out of this Budget, we will remain firmly by the side of businesses across the capital to help them remain resilient, continue to navigate the ongoing disruption, and look forward to a brighter future.”