Business leaders in Liverpool are calling for the establishment of a Business COBRA for the city region to begin to tackle the significant challenges that companies are facing as the Coronavirus begins to impact on the economy.

Downtown in Business chief executive Frank McKenna, the head of the Business Improvement District and the chair of Liverpool Visitor Economy board Bill Addy, Phil McCabe of the Federation of Small Business and the chair of the Liverpool Hospitality Association Marcus Magee, have issued a joint statement calling for urgent and coordinated action from the Local Enterprise Partnership, the Combined Authority and the City Council in association with business organisations from across the region.

The statement reads:

“We are asking the powers that be to try and get ahead of what is becoming a critical situation for many of our businesses. The key issues that business needs support, advice and help with are professional guidance around staffing issues, cash flow planning and recovery plan strategy.

“In particular we would like to see direct and meaningful dialogue opened up with banks and financial institutions to monitor how they are implementing the business support measure announced in the budget last week at a local level; what plans local authorities may have around business rates; what flexibility there is to more effectively utilize the Combined Authority’s SIF funding; what can be done to support those sectors that are already in crisis in the hospitality and retail sectors.

“We appreciate that in terms of cash and resources the public sector is not in a position to be throwing money at this problem. Nonetheless, there is a need for us to pull together through a private and public sector partnership to ensure that we are doing the maximum possible to mitigate against the worst effects of a global crisis that could turn into a local catastrophe for many businesses.”

The business leaders have written to all other business groups from across the city region seeking their support and co-operation and they have contacted the city and city region mayors offices asking for an urgent meeting of those organisations, the Local Enterprise Partnership and representatives from the banks.

The statement concludes:

“We would also want to bring together a powerful body of people who can begin to argue for even greater assistance from government. In particular we would like to see

  • An urgent deferral of business rates and VAT payments for businesses, regardless of their size
  • Adaption of Universal Credit by contributing to wage payments for those whose services are not needed in the short-term to support retention of employees
  • A further cut to the rate of NICs for one-year
  • Allow businesses to use the apprenticeships levy cost to contribute towards salary costs rather than just training
  • Flexibility and less bureaucracy around local, regional and national access to finance and business support funding to help with cash flow.

We are sure that this list is not exhaustive and many of our colleagues will have their own ideas as to how we can get through this crisis. That is why we want to get a practical, action orientated group in place to give our business community the support it desperately needs as quickly as possible.”