The IPIA and BAPC met with the Government Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on April 15th. Among other key representations the trade associations made on the print industry’s behalf was the critical need for a recovery glide path to be implemented for initiatives such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
BEIS confirmed that the Government was consulting in-depth on a series of strategies to ensure that industries such as print, which have been severely impacted by Covid-19, did not go over a cliff edge as restrictions are lifted. Specifically, that a graduated approach to the withdrawal of Covid-19 business support mechanisms was being explored.
“Our meeting with BEIS was very productive and inspired a tremendous amount of confidence about the Government’s plans to support industries such as ours when we move into the post Covid-19 recovery phase,” says Graeme Smith, IPIA Chairman.
He adds: “They also recognised that the print industry is a decisive barometer for the economic health of every other sector of our economy and is intrinsically linked with each of the UK’s major industrial bases.”
Protecting UK print
Recommendations were also made to BEIS on the expansion of business support packages to include:
- A time-limited and Government-backed book debt loan scheme
- Suspension for twelve months of auto-enrolment pension fees for employers
- A total suspension of VAT on print and merchandising material for two-years following the lifting of restrictions
- A substantial increase in capital equipment allowances
Graeme adds: “We presented the findings of our Covid-19 Business Impact Survey to BEIS, in addition to the initial feedback from our new Finance and Recovery Survey, to provide them with intelligence as to the far-reaching economic damage being caused by this crisis.
“Among the recommendations we made based on this research was the need for a glide path for the eventual withdrawal of Government Business Support schemes.
“Another key recommendation is that the Job Retention Scheme needs further flexibility built into it for when restrictions are lifted, and demand starts to flow back into the system.”
Graeme continues: “Specifically, that a staff member’s designated furlough period could be split up over the course of the scheme, instead of having to be taken in one continuous block. Or at least that the minimum furlough period that has to be taken consecutively be reduced to two weeks.”
Help where it’s needed
The representatives from the IPIA and BAPC also provided feedback from the print industry on the poor provision of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), and how it could be adapted to provide greater financial confidence and support to sectors such as ours.
BEIS provided very constructive assurances that the issues being experienced with the CBILS provision were a top priority for Government and that over the next two weeks it expects a significant improvement in the take-up of, and access to, the scheme.
A strong case was also made to BEIS about the inclusion of print businesses in the £25,000 Grant Scheme for hospitality, retail and leisure where they can prove they have significant exposure to these sectors. BEIS explained they have been making representations to the Treasury on this specific issue on behalf of several industries with a similar level of exposure. It requested that information and case-studies continue to be provided to them to aid these discussions.
Graeme concludes: “We are very heartened by the meeting we have had with BEIS. They clearly understand in detail the significant and very specific challenges facing the UK print industry. They are working very hard to help evolve the package of support measures in place to prevent businesses going into administration and making redundancies if at all possible.
“They have requested that we continue to feed them information on how the range of business support packages are being received on the ground, once they become available, and how our sector is responding to them in practice. We will redouble our efforts in this regard and ensure we are doing our utmost to represent and support the UK print industry.”
The Sourcing Bridge
The IPIA and the BAPC have also been working together to help the industry come through the current Covid-19 pandemic by founding creative solutions to help businesses share their resources and strengths. It is recognised that businesses are looking at how they manage the need to reduce costs as work decreases, while supporting staff and customers in a safe and sensible way.
Many are mothballing their entire production and pushing work out to trade suppliers, while others are closing departments or reducing numbers in each department to ensure they survive.
Both Associations have been approached by many members who are looking at sourcing suitable trade suppliers or partners to help them through this crisis. and have been recommending and linking them up with appropriate companies.
As a result of the increasing demand they have decided to work together to expand, formalise and develop this activity and promote a partner sourcing service during this unparalleled business situation.
To this end they have launched a free service called The Sourcing Bridge, which will operate as follows:
If a company needs to source anything from a partner to work with you on a regular basis to cover short falls in production staffing, support for a one-off job, or even requires an individual to replace someone in a department for a single job, then they can email this request through to email@example.com.
The Sourcing Bridge team will discuss specific needs with you and then post the request on a shared IPIA and BAPC Member portal that has been set up, advising appropriate members there is an opportunity and then connecting you to them.
All requests will be kept discreet and confidential. The possibility of long-term arrangements, or even mergers has not been ignored. If help is needed, then the BAPC and IPIA will endeavour to find a solution.