Sara’s Blog: Reaction to temporary visas for drivers and food workers & end of furlough – a good time to start a business?

Sara’s blog – 1st October 2021

Reaction to temporary visas for drivers and food workers & end of furlough – a good time to start a business?

The fuel distribution problems of the last week have brought the fragility of our labour market into sharp focus.

Chambers of Commerce have been warning Government about critical labour shortages for months now – not just in the food and haulage industries but in hospitality, construction, the care sector and elsewhere.  And whilst businesses will welcome that government is finally acting, this scheme does not go far enough.

Government has made clear its priority is to transition from a reliance on EU workers to a focus on the domestic workforce, and businesses have been ready to participate in this, but it is a long-term project rather than a quick fix to current supply chain issues.

A managed transition, with a plan agreed between government and business, should have been in place from the outset. Instead, the supply of EU labour was turned off with no clear roadmap as to how this transition would be managed without disruption to services and supply chains.

Now some action has been taken, but additional testing will take time and the low number of visas offered is insufficient. Even if these short-term opportunities attract the maximum amount of people allowed under the scheme, it will not be enough to address the scale of the problem that has now developed in our supply chains. According to president of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith CBE, this announcement is the equivalent of ‘throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire’.

Government should be prepared to significantly expand the number of visas issued within this scheme and convene a summit that brings business and government together to find both immediate and longer-term solutions to the many challenges facing firms throughout the UK.

Without further action, we now face the very real prospect of serious damage to our economic recovery, stifled growth as well as another less than happy Christmas for many businesses and their customers across the country.

BCC data has shown that 76% of hospitality businesses, and 82% of construction firms have faced recruitment difficulties in recent months. At the same time, three out of four exporters reported no growth in sales in Q2.

Businesses are facing the most difficult environment for a generation. On top of labour shortages – border delays, increased debt and the rising cost of materials, shipping and energy are all putting huge pressure on firms struggling to recover from the pandemic. All these issues are hitting smaller firms the hardest.

Attempts to address the deficit of HGV drivers and poultry workers is a step forward, but these industries are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the huge impact of the current labour shortages. Without a comprehensive plan to tackle this issue across the board we are facing a winter of lost opportunities for our businesses, hampering the UK’s economic recovery.

If these issues are affecting you or you have an opinion to voice then why not join our debate in our Virtual Members’ Lounge:  ‘A Thimble of Water to put out a Bonfire’ – BCC on temporary visas for drivers — Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce

With the furlough scheme finally ending this week many workers may find themselves either out of a job or looking for a change of career direction.

In the pandemic year of 2020 there were over 770,000 new businesses started, a rise of 30 percent on the previous year so now is probably as good a time as any to look to launch a new business as not only are there opportunities opening in the post-Covid economy, but also, there has never been as much support on offer.

The Chamber’s start-up programme is open to anyone looking to start a business and has tailored packages for students, women, and refugees. Once you are started, we then offer all the support you need to grow your business.

We have three dedicated start-up advisors, business mentors and a club for businesses up to three years old – the One2Three club.

I often hear people running their own business say that it is the best decision they ever made. So, if you have a new business idea or just want to explore your options with an advisor you can email  or visit: Leadership Search – Staffordshire Chambers

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, including funding, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email:

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