"BUSINESSES need a confidence boost now".

That is the stark message from Hampshire Chamber of Commerce's chairman Ross McNally.

Making his views clear with recommendations ahead of the chancellor Rishi Sunak's summer statement on Wednesday, Mr McNally said: “This is a critical moment in the fightback against Covid. Nationally, we are seeing deteriorating economic conditions with many key indicators for business performance dropping to record lows. Businesses and communities need a confidence boost now. That means more short-term stimulus measures. Our message is: ‘Don’t wait until the autumn Budget. Take action now.’

“As it has done with furlough support and loans, the government must continue to deliver support that takes shape on the ground swiftly and effectively. This week’s rescue package for the arts sector is of course welcome but the jury is out as to whether it will be enough to keep cultural venues going longer term. The closure of Nuffield Southampton Theatres is a clear indication that, without greater assistance, our region’s creative and cultural industries are being seriously affected by the economic impact of the virus.

“Jobs in the arts, and other seriously affected sectors such as retail, hospitality and leisure, could be supported through a more flexible approach to furlough. For example, small tapering subsidies for returned full-time staff as furlough winds down.

“At the same time, more grants and business rate reliefs could sustain cashflow for many small businesses in all sectors.

“We are working hard to provide as much advice and support to Hampshire businesses as we can along with partner organisations such as growth hubs. We’ve called on the government to enable more businesses to access such support by funding vouchers up to £3,000.

“There should be more support for young people through wage subsidies for apprenticeships and other good quality workplace programmes.

“We are also calling for tax changes. A temporary VAT cut would stimulate spending and help drive consumer demand in the marketplace. More incentives could also be introduced to encourage enterprise start-ups, diversification and moves to self-employment."

He continued: “The response to this crisis has already required monumental amounts of spending but the government still has to rekindle business and consumer confidence and try to mitigate any further wave of job losses. The only way to do that is to be bold and take decisive action now as part of a wider roadmap for the UK economy.”