CBI Scotland has issued a 6-point action plan built around a “no surprises’ approach for if, and when, new local restrictions are needed. It believes, the plan, if adopted would allow a degree of certainty for local businesses and communities. The plan, published today, just two days after the Aberdeen lockdown was implemented, aims to get all levels of government on the same page with businesses to build confidence for individuals and firms in local lockdown processes.
Tracy Black, CBI Scotland Director, said, “Businesses know that if infection rates spike in an area, then new local lockdowns may well be required to protect public health. That’s why they’re working so hard to follow government guidance – keeping their offices, pubs and shops safe and secure for staff and customers.
“Local lockdowns are a crucial piece of the puzzle in how we manage the risk of infection and reopening the economy safely, so we must get good at them.
“Government rightly needs to act fast on new information, so there will be limited notice, but we must aim for a ‘no surprises’ approach as far as is possible. It would be fair to say that the local business reception has been mixed at best on how they have gone so far.
“Not all restrictions are one-size-fits-all, as we have seen from the limited lockdown in Aberdeen and the full lockdown in Leicester. Each will have their own impact on businesses, directly and indirectly, so we must get the building blocks in place to protect jobs, as well as lives. For the hospitality sector in Aberdeen, that means bracing for a difficult second hit, just as it was looking to get back on its feet.
“We are learning all the time, and now have more tools in our armoury to combat infection risks. But at the same time business resilience is lower than it has ever been, with cash and stockpiles run down. For an area like the North East of Scotland, that has already suffered from a downturn in oil and gas, it’s doubly important to get that right.”
The 6-point action plan, business wants to see is:
- Increasing the visibility and awareness of the data trigger points used in decision-making. Greater understanding and transparency of which data and metrics will be used consistently (including the thresholds) to both impose and lift restrictions, would help local communities prepare.
- Ensuring decisions are communicated at the right time, to the right people. Timing announcements – as far as is possible – during working hours can minimise confusion and allow employers to engage with their staff in good time. Affected authorities, agencies and stakeholders, should be approached in good time to help disseminate the messages to the right audience, whatever the type of lockdown (i.e. community restrictions and/or business restrictions). Businesses also have an important role to play in communicating these messages to their workforces, often being the first port-of-call for information from employees on what the implications may be for their company.
- Clarity of message. Say what people can do as well as changes to what they can’t do. Be clear what changes mean for business, transport operators, schools and others. Publish maps and explain what it means for people who live, work and go to school in and around the outskirts of any lockdown area.
- Communicating who is ‘in charge’ of the lockdown and have a “go-to” person for businesses to both access and provide information. Lockdowns by their nature will require a multi-agency approach, but people and businesses will want to be clear who is ultimately responsible for its roll-out, whether it be a Scottish Government minister or directorate, or local authority. This may vary by the severity of any new restrictions.
- Stepping up Test and Protect efforts – this will be essential to national efforts, but also help affected areas to minimise disruption. Developing a system that produces the outcomes required will lessen the likelihood of new restrictions in local areas being necessary.
- Establishing a framework for business support, which recognises that local lockdowns will impact local economies differently. This should include improved support for businesses and people where staff absences are high due to following self-isolation rules; a clear mechanism for channelling funding quickly via local authorities; and ensuring any support is made easily accessible to local firms.