I briefly managed to break free from lockdown last week to have my first Covid-19 jab. I was in and out of the village surgery in less than five minutes. It was painless and efficient and, I have to confess, gave my confidence a much needed boost.
The combined response of the Government, the NHS, emergency services and volunteers to roll-out the jabs has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. Credit where credit is due. When this crisis is over, I’m sure Boris will make sure the public knows the part he and other selected Government ministers played. Its fully deserved.
And that is where my fulsome praise ends. I’m far from impressed with the way the Government has conducted itself when it comes business and the economy.
When Boris was asked at Prime Minister’s Questions last week by Jonathan Ashworth whether he intended to extend business rates relief and the Furlough scheme, his reply left much to be desired. He basically told the Opposition they would have to wait, along with the rest of us, for next month’s Budget. Only then, would all be revealed. My response would be “Sod Parliamentary protocol. Where is the clarity that businesses so desperately need?”
For the best part of a year now the Government has dithered over whether to extend Furlough, business rates and grants. In the meantime many businesses have slipped through the cracks, unable to get the loans or grants available. These businesses need support and they need it now. Many of them are already struggling to survive.
The British Retail Consortium says retailers have lost £22 billion in sales since the beginning of the first lockdown. Those sales will never be recouped. Pubs and restaurants have been closing at a dramatic rate and it’s estimated that none of them collectively have made a profit since the start of lockdown. Running a business is always difficult, but it’s virtually impossible to do it blindfold.
The Government showed it could be decisive when it came to the roll-out of the jabs. It now needs to display that same decisiveness when it comes to supporting business.