Chancellor urged to help SMEs cope with coronavirus fallout


Former chancellor Philip Hammond has urged Rishi Sunak to implement urgent measures to help small businesses cope with the effects of Covid-19 in his upcoming Budget, while concerns have already been raised about the impact on some areas of print.

Hammond: advice for fresh chancellor
Hammond: advice for fresh chancellor

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Hammond said the virus was likely to cause a significant dip in economic output in the short-term.

“This is clearly a human tragedy that will affect hundreds of thousands of families across Britain and beyond,” he said.

“What we do know is it will have an effect on the economy and that’s already starting to happen. The economic impact will be real and the chancellor will need to address that in his budget speech tomorrow.

“The chancellor is in a very difficult position. He’s got to balance the obvious desire to do something with a certain caution that we don’t know where this is going yet,” Hammond said.

“I would strongly advise that he announces immediate short-term measures to ease the current cashflow pressure that many small businesses and indeed some larger , for example by postponing deadlines for payment of VAT, National Insurance and PAYE,” he stated.

“That would be the first step, to make sure businesses have access to the cash they need. The problem is primarily one of supply. If people can’t get to work goods and services can’t be produced.

“If it does become necessary to close schools, the government could look at ways to incentivise businesses to operate shift patters so both parents could continue working and looking after children at home… Government would need to find a way of compensating business for those additional costs,” Hammond added.

In the printing industry, the cancellation of a number of major events is already impacting firms that specialise in graphics and collateral for exhibitions and events.

“It’s a wipe out. This is the single-biggest problem to hit the sector,” noted one events industry executive.

“Clients have just stopped spending. It’s gone from 100% to zero in a day. There’s going to be a lot of job losses and people will go under because of this.”

Yesterday the organisers of Sign & Digital UK announced that the 2020 event due to take place next month had been cancelled.

Information and events giant Informa said today that it had postponed or cancelled some 130 events worldwide, worth £425m to the business.

Separately, software firm Chili Publish has surprised many in the industry by announcing at an early stage that it is cancelling its participation in the upcoming Drupa show, which is due to be held from 16-26 June.

The Belgium-headquartered company had a stand in hall 7a.

CEO Kevin Goeminne said the business had revised its position about attending large-scale public gatherings in light of public health advice around the Covid-19 situation.

“We have a responsibility towards our team, partners, customers and the whole community worldwide to ensure that business continuity and full operability prevail at all times,” he said.

Yesterday, a Drupa spokesperson at Messe Dusseldorf told Printweek: “There are currently no intentions to postpone Drupa. In consultation with health authorities and partners, Messe Düsseldorf will again assess the situation in good time and make an appropriate decision.”

There had been no further official comment on May’s Interpack show at the same venue at the time of writing, with sources suggesting a decision about that event could be taken by the end of this week.

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