Richmond Chamber of Commerce chief warns of ‘tough times’ ahead for local business

Richmond Chamber of Commerce today warned of ‘tough times’ ahead for local businesses, as the UK prepares to enter its third week of national lockdown.

Chief executive of Richmond Chamber of Commerce, Anne Newton, told South West Londoner that a number of businesses have gone to the wall as a result of the second lockdown. 

She said: “Although I’m confident that we will come out of this on the other side, there will be businesses that will fail.

“Already the cracks are starting to appear.”

Her comments come as chancellor Rishi Sunak warned that the second lockdown in England will have “significant additional impacts” on the UK economy.

Newton has called on the government to pay attention to innovation and startups when the UK is lifted out of the current lockdown. 

She added: “Businesses are going to come out of this lockdown bruised and battered – they will need more support.

“The main concern we are hearing is that of cash flow. Businesses need money in the bank to pay their staff and suppliers.” 

A survey carried out by Richmond Council in September found that as a result of the first lockdown, 91% of the businesses were financially negatively affected.

It was also shown that one in ten Richmond businesses are not eligible for Government Covid-19 support.

Cllr Richard Baker, Lead Member for Business at Richmond Council said: “It is clear thousands of businesses have been affected and the knock-on impact on employment could be felt for years to come.

“The information provided by the survey will help us in future talks with the Government about what help is needed.”

Richmond Council have now launched a business support programme with a focus on start-ups and early stage business.

Hounslow Chamber of Commerce has also expressed concern about businesses’ ability to operate under constant emergency conditions. 

Managing director Alan Rides said: “The biggest concern we are hearing is the ability to be able to cope in the new year.

“That’s when we’ll start to see the problems emerging. 

“It’s fair to say nobody prepares a business plan about the eventuality of a global pandemic.”

A report carried out by Oxford Economics has projected the total impact on Houslow’s economy will be £2.7 billion for 2020/21.

In October, Hounslow’s cabinet approved the council’s bold ‘Recovery Plan’ to support the borough through the major economic and social challenges over the months ahead.

The chamber has also warned about the downturn of Heathrow Airport and the impact this will have on businesses in the borough. 

Chief operating officer, Sally Smith, said: “Heathrow is our economic driver in this area and that is our problem – we are going to be very badly affected.

“It’s most young people that are going to be affected as well. You’ve got all the hotels around Heathrow, and you people do tend to go into those service industries.

“The government needs to focus on sole traders, they are the backbone of our community. 

“Many of those who are self-employed don’t make a huge profit, and that’s where support has fallen.

“It’s going to be tough, but we have to keep on going, we as a community have to trade our way out of this.”

If you are a local business in need of information or support, you can visit Hounslow and Richmond’s Chamber of Commerce website. 

Featured image credit: Jim Linwood

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