When asked which initiative would be most beneficial to helping their firm trade this year, a quarter (24 per cent) of SMEs in the West Midlands said an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or the introduction of a new scheme to help them retain employees.
Almost a fifth (18 per cent) said they hoped a cut in the VAT rate would be included in the package of measures announced by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, while around one in six (16 per cent) said they would like to see tax holidays on taxes like National Insurance.
Although more than half (53 per cent) of those polled said they were either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ optimistic that their firm could trade solvently through 2021 without the support of Government schemes, one in six (17 per cent) were ‘not very’ optimistic. Close to one quarter (23 per cent) were undecided, saying they were neither confident nor not confident.
The research also revealed the Covid-19 support measures that West Midlands businesses had already made use of during the past year. Half had used the furlough scheme, while a fifth had accessed Government-backed emergency business funding, for example a Bounce-Back Loan or finance through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. One in six had benefited from the cut in VAT.
Notably, nearly a quarter of respondents (24 per cent) said their business had not needed to access any of the Government’s Covid-19 support schemes so far.
Amanda Dorel, regional director for the West Midlands at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It’s clear that the financial support provided by the Government has been a vital lifeline for West Midlands SMEs. Now that there is a roadmap out of lockdown, many firms are beginning to look ahead with optimism, but it’s evident that businesses need further support as they rebuild and recover.
“Whatever the Chancellor announces in his Budget, we will remain by the side of businesses in the West Midlands to provide the financial support and guidance they need to look ahead with confidence.”