A BUSINESS leader says the urgent action taken by the Government is much needed to help struggling firms with cash flow as the coronavirus pandemic threatens economic disaster across the region.

James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East England Chamber of Commerce, spoke as sweeping restrictions brought in to tackle the spread of the virus began to hit all sectors of the economy.

He said: “We have been putting pressure on the Government to look at ways of helping businesses with cash flow. There have already been certain things announced in the budget. We would like to see banks being a lot more supportive, with delaying loan repayments and need to make sure that tax and rate demands are not pressurised.

“What we need to do is make sure that however many months' time we come out of this, people are still in employment and businesses are able to get up and running really, really quickly. Anything that might cause a business to fold needs to avoided, if at all possible.”

He added: “The tragedy for us is that at the end of last year we did our quarterly survey and the one thing that came through really strongly, mostly as a result of Brexit, was cash flow concerns.

“Almost every business was saying that cash flow was really tight and they were borrowing money hard to stay cash positive. Of course this is now is going to tip them way over the edge.”

Mr Ramsbotham said the coronavirus pandemic was having an impact on “every single person, in every single business and in every walk of life”.

He said: “The sectors that are going to be hit more than others are those that rely on physical human contact – leisure, retail and hospitality being the obvious ones, as well as travel businesses, sporting organisations and the theatre sector.

“But then in the logistics sector, if you’re a white van driver delivering for internet companies or a business manufacturing for the NHS you are completely snowed under. Equally, I was speaking to someone who runs a day care centre who was saying ‘we know at some stage we going to be getting shut down. We have no cash behind us and it will be the end of our business’. So businesses that require people who come together are going to be really badly hit.”

Mr Ramsbotham urged every business with concerns to make the North East England Chamber of Commerce aware of them.

He said: “We are passing everything on to the Government. What we are doing is trying to do is gather all the information together, collate it and then we will be working with all the chambers of commerce around the country and the British Chamber of Commerce."

For more information, visit www.neechamber.co.uk.