Improvements and changes to the Government’s furlough scheme, support for micro-businesses and how the region’s business community can support the production of more PPE, are major priorities for the economic recovery, discussed by business leaders from across South Yorkshire today.

The business community across South Yorkshire, led by the Chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), James Muir have met to discuss the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on South Yorkshire’s economy. The group will develop the region’s economy recovery plan, reporting into Mayor Dan Jarvis’ South Yorkshire Covid-19 Response Group.

Made up of the Chamber of Commerce Chief Executives, the British Business Bank, the Federation of Small Businesses, MakeUK, Trade Unions, manufacturers, the group discussed what impact Covid-19 had already had on the economy, what more needs to be done by Government to support businesses and what steps needs to be put in place now, to aid the region’s economic recovery once lockdown restrictions are relaxed.

The group explored three major challenges facing the private sector and agreed to prioritise:

  1. The need for the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, where workers are furloughed, could be flexed to provide certainty – to avoid a sharp drop off in support when the scheme ends in June, and allow businesses a smooth transition to the easing of the lockdown
  2. Overcoming the challenges facing firms accessed the Coronavirus Interruption Business Loan Scheme – the LEP has worked with the NP11 group to lobby banks across the region and will make further representations to the Chancellor and Treasury
  3. How businesses can be supported to switch production to make Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the NHS

The group discussed how the Government’s furlough scheme could be changed to support even more businesses keep hold of employees during and as we emerge from this crisis.

Business representatives highlighted the problems some organisations are facing in accessing the Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme (CIBLs) and agreed the importance of working together to ensure a scheme that works better for the region’s small businesses.

There was also praise for the way that many businesses across the region have, quickly and efficiently, switched production to help in the national effort to make much needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The group discussed how the city region could support even more businesses in this effort.

James Muir, Chair of the Sheffield City Region LEP, said: “The Mayor and the LEP are working hard to the 68,000 businesses across South Yorkshire and we are determined to pull through the pandemic as strong as possible. Our companies are playing a huge part in the response to the Coronavirus and we have shown our strengths and resilience.

“We know that the nature of easing the lockdown will determine, to an extent the nature of the recovery. It is clear businesses will need support to adapt to the easing of the lockdown, for instance ensuring the Job Retention Scheme does not end with a cliff-edge. This will help provide certainty and a smooth transition.

“We all seize the opportunities that arise out of Coronavirus. The important challenges that faced us before the pandemic still remain. This is why we should be more ambitious and develop a recovery programme that takes us beyond where we were – building a strong, prosperous future for South Yorkshire. That is the task we have set ourselves and we will all be working together to achieve.”

This group has been established to bring the business voice to the Mayor’s Covid-19 Economic Response Group, which brings together the universities, the voluntary and community sector, the Police and Crime Commissioner, the NHS and social care system and business to develop an economic recovery plan for the region.