A LEADING Cumbria legal firm is backing calls for the government to do more to help small and medium sized businesses with more than 30 per cent at risk of going out of business if the COVID-19 lockdown continues.
New research conducted by the UK200Group, an organisation which represents the country’s leading law and accountancy firms, shows that more than 500,000 people in the North West are at risk of unemployment.
Of the 1,793 SME businesses who took part in the survey, conducted during three weeks in April, 31 per cent believe they could close permanently if the lockdown continues beyond June.
The research shows that 42 per cent of the SMEs who took part in the survey have closed temporarily and 88 per cent have had to scale down or close.
Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors, the only law firm member of the UK200Group in Cumbria and Northumberland, has written to all four MPs where its offices are based to highlight to government the following three key areas where SMEs say they need more help:
- accessing bank funding to preserve their business;
- rebuilding their business once the pandemic eases;
- supporting the self-employed to tide them over.
Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors, along with the other UK200Group partners, is calling on the government to prioritise support for SMEs by implementing the following measures:
- removing some of the administrative hurdles of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme;
- continuing support for furloughed employees, rather than a hard end to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme;
- refining the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to ensure it is well targeted.
New Bounce Back Loans announced by the government this week, will potentially help the smaller SME businesses. The borrowing limit is from £2,000 to £50,000.
But it does not stop the call for change to the main Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme for those businesses which need financial help above those limits.
As a business, you can only have one of these types of loans.
Peter Stafford, managing director of Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors, said: “The government has taken major steps to try to help businesses to survive but this research shows that much more needs to be done.
“The UK200Group is using its size and reach to push the government to make more changes to support SMEs. Not just because all the members are SMEs but also because nearly all of our clients are as well.
“Whilst efforts are being made to protect our NHS and key workers, we must also make sure that people’s jobs and livelihoods are protected as well.”
Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors has 100 staff, most of whom are working from home throughout the lockdown to ensure they can give continuous professional and personal service and support to clients, individuals, businesses, and the wider community, throughout the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown.
The firm has six offices based in Carlisle, Penrith, Brampton, Dovenby and Haltwhistle.
The UK200Group, the UK’s leading professional services group of independent quality assured Chartered Accountancy and Law firms, has more than 500 partners, representing about 150,000 SMEs, owner operators and family businesses across the country.