GPMA hopeful as government's Covid-19 response evolves

Jo Francis
Monday, October 26, 2020

The Graphics & Print Media Alliance (GPMA) has received a “heartening” response from the government after lobbying for a disaster relief fund to help save thousands of printing industry firms that have been badly-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sunak upgraded support measures last week. But no 'disaster relief' for business as yet
Sunak upgraded support measures last week. But no 'disaster relief' for business as yet

In September the GPMA wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak warning that as many as 3,000 print businesses would be unable to survive a prolonged period of Covid-19 restrictions.

Since then, the new system of tiered regional measures has been instigated, while Wales has implemented a 16-day firebreak lockdown.

On 20 October the GPMA received a response from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) that stated that the government “fully recognises the importance of the graphics and print media sector to the UK economy, and to the consumers who rely on printed materials for information and communication”.

It said that the government was “focused on measures to combat the virus in the places where it is most prevalent, whilst also doing everything possible to keep our economy moving forwards with people working in a Covid-19 secure way”.

Regarding the GPMA’s specific request for means-tested relief for businesses, BEIS said: “We would like to further assure you that your proposal that a mean-tested ‘disaster relief’ style grant should be made available to the printing industry has been noted, and will be borne in mind as the policy response to the pandemic evolves.”

The GPMA comprises 15 different trade bodies. In a joint statement its commercial print representatives: IPIA chairman Graeme Smith, BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold, Picon chief executive Bettine Pellant and BAPC chairman Brendan Perring, commented: “The response from government is heartening to say the least. They clearly recognise the specific challenges the UK print industry faces, have asserted that they will be borne in mind as policy is now developed, and have requested that we continue to work closely with them.”

However, despite being hopeful that the government had heeded its warning, the GPMA called on print bosses to help the ongoing lobbying effort by writing to their MPs and to BEIS to highlight the situation.

The GPMA said that “hundreds of business owners” had already done so, and called for “a continuation of concerted effort from across the industry” to keep up the noise level.

“We will continue our collective efforts to work with the Government in securing a sustainable solution,” the GPMA collective stated.

A template letter can be found here.

More than 75% of respondents to a recent Printweek poll believed that the chancellor should bring in targeted reliefs for businesses that are being most impacted by the government restrictions. 

Last week Sunak announced additional financial support for businesses and workers with a number of changes to the Winter Support Schemes.

The terms of the new Job Support Scheme (JSS), which goes live on 1 November, have been enhanced so that the employers’ contribution to unworked hours is 5% (was 33%), while the minimum hours have been cut to 20%, from 33%. 

The Job Support Scheme for businesses forced to close remains the same, and the Job Retention Bonus of £1,000 is unchanged.

New business grants of up to £2,100 a month are being made available for companies that have been impacted by the restrictions in high-alert areas. The grants are primarily focused on firms in hospitality, accommodation and leisure.

The upcoming grant for self-employed people has also been doubled from 20% to 40% of a quarter’s average trading profits, which means the maximum grant will increase from £1,875 to £3,750.

The first grant covers the period from 1 November- 31 January 2021. The level of the second grant, from February to the end of April, has not yet been decided.

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