A major survey of businesses across the Marches has revealed the full scale of the impact coronavirus is having on the region’s economy.
Nearly 98 per cent of the 400 businesses who have so far responded to the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership survey say their business has been hit – with many revealing how they have been forced to shut down, suffered a total loss of revenue, had bookings cancelled or seen their supply chains collapse.
Nearly half of all businesses have furloughed staff under the new job retention scheme and more than half are not eligible for the Government’s small business grants.
Key findings of the survey to date include:
98 per cent of businesses said they had been affected by the lockdown
41 per cent have been hit by a complete loss of sales
47 per cent of businesses have applied to or taken advantage of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to furlough workers
36 per cent have applied to or taken advantage of the £10,000 Cash Grant Scheme for small businesses
28 per cent have not applied to any support scheme to date
72 per cent say they need financial support and advice most
The survey – one of the biggest of its kind ever conducted in the region – also reveals concerns about how banks are handling aspects of the Government’s support schemes, gaps in support which some businesses are falling through and delays in accessing loans and grants.
The LEP, the business-led body charged with delivering economic growth across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin – is urging more of the region’s 30,000 businesses to take the survey so that it has comprehensive evidence it can take to Government.
Marches LEP chair Mandy Thorn said: “This survey is giving us a really clear picture of the state of the business economy across our region during this crisis.
“So far businesses of all sizes, shapes and sectors have completed the survey but we want even more to take five minutes to make sure their voice is heard. With the evidence we are gathering we can lobby Government to ensure this region gets all the help and support it needs.”
A total of 57 per cent of the businesses to have responded come from Herefordshire, 34 per cent from Shropshire and nearly eight per cent from Telford & Wrekin. Largest sectors represented are tourism and hospitality (22 per cent), professional services (16.5 per cent) and retail (14 per cent).
Fifty eight per cent of businesses are limited companies, 25 per cent sole traders and 12 per cent registered as partnerships.
Comments from individual businesses about how the virus has affected them include:
“We have had to close the office and move our staff home – we have not had any support for rate relief as we are £1,000 over the £15,000 Rateable Value. Many of our customers have now put plans on hold for six months.”
“Our workload has reduced by 90 per cent so we have furloughed all but three of our workforce and closed the factory. Despite having no income we still have fixed costs so are worried about cash flow.”
“We have had to suspend all project work as our clients and consultants have requested a pause/break. The shock of the lockdown made clients put work on hold. All staff are furloughed.”
Some businesses praised the work of local authorities in delivering financial support, but many criticised the banks or said they had fallen between the cracks in the Government support.
Comments about Government business support measures included:
“Many of the options are not available for owner-operated/Director-run companies. Some are simply unaffordable, some are not applicable and furloughing is not an option for owner-operator/sole-person businesses as once furloughed you cannot do anything to help/run the business.”
“We are waiting for the portal to open on the CJRS but will not get cash until May but still have to pay out our April payroll. The banks are trying to sell us other products rather than allow us access to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme which we clearly qualify for.”
“We are a small limited business husband and wife team so none of the support offered as yet has been applicable.”
To take part in the survey visit https://www.marcheslep.org.uk/coronavirussurvey/