By Ian McConnell

BRITISH Chambers of Commerce yesterday called for “an immediate emergency budget” to deal with the “costs crises facing businesses and people throughout the country”.

The business organisation wants the UK Government to “ease upfront costs of doing business” by reversing the recently introduced rise in national insurance contributions until at least 2023/24. It noted such a move would also put money back in people’s pockets and boost consumer confidence.

British Chambers is also asking the Johnson administration to help firms manage the impact of rising energy prices by cutting value-added tax on their energy bills from 20 per cent to 5% for a minimum of one year.

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It is also calling for the reinstatement of free Covid-19 tests for companies to “ease the strain on productivity caused by persistent high absences”, declaring that this would help address labour shortages.

British Chambers said: “Many businesses in the UK are still seeing above-average absence rates as Covid continues to impact the workforce. Around two-thirds of more than 1,100 firms surveyed in April by the BCC reported staff absences due to Covid symptoms or self-isolation.

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“Bringing back free testing would allow firms to limit the disease’s spread among employees. With wider structural staff shortages continuing to limit productivity, this would be a key measure to keep the economic recovery on track. New sub-variants of Omicron are reportedly leading to rising infection rates in the US and South Africa.”

British Chambers said of its national insurance proposal: “Postponing the rise in national insurance contributions would not only ease the immediate pressure on companies’ balance sheets but it would also put money back into the pockets of people – boosting consumer confidence. When supply-chain disruption has unwound and global factors influencing inflation have receded, the economy will then be in a much stronger position to bear the increase.”