Most small factories in England plan job cuts, despite government help - survey

Automotive components are seen at the Muller manufacturing facility in Redditch

LONDON (Reuters) - More than half of small manufacturers in England plan to cut jobs despite government programmes to help them through the coronavirus hit to the economy, which many deem insufficient, a survey showed on Thursday.

Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed by the South West Manufacturing Advisory Service (SWMAS) and the Manufacturing Growth Programme said either they did not think the assistance being offered by the government was sufficient, or that they were unsure about whether they could access it.

The survey chimed with a report on Wednesday from the British Chambers of Commerce that showed only a small fraction of British companies have so far successfully accessed financial help from the government.

Gauges of business activity have already slumped to record low levels and economists expect Britain's economy will contract by at least 10% in the second quarter.

Around nine of out 10 companies expect both production volumes and sales to fall over the next six month, heaping pressure on their financial help, Thursday's survey showed.

Gauges of business activity have already slumped to record low levels and economists expect Britain's economy will contract by at least 10% in the second quarter.

Britain has pledged over 60 billion pounds ($73 billion) in public spending and tax cuts to try to shield its economy from a deep recession and the final bill could be much higher.

Last month the government announced a programme to pay 80% of workers' salaries up to a cap of 2,500 pounds a month. The scheme's online portal is due for launch by the end of April.

"Many (manufacturers) are concerned about how paying furloughed staff will affect their cash flow in the short term before government support becomes available," Simon Howes, managing director of SWMAS, said.

"Whilst the government's initial support package was widely welcomed by industry, there is a need to provide deeper advice and support for manufacturers to help them to adapt and to survive."

On Wednesday, the finance ministry said that more than 77,000 small businesses had already benefitted from almost 1 billion pounds of cash grants, while almost 1,000 businesses have had more than 90 million pounds of loans approved in the last two weeks.

Thursday's survey covered around 330 manufacturers who were questioned between March 25 to April 1.


(Reporting by Andy Bruce; editing by William James)