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58% of UK companies back pace of lockdown easing

The majority of UK businesses support the pace of easing of lockdown restrictions, according to the latest data from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking research. Two-thirds said they were ready to operate at close to full capacity when the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted on Monday, 12 April.

When asked whether their business would have preferred or benefitted from a different pace of easing, 58% said they preferred neither a faster nor slower easing of restrictions. However, a net balance of 34% of firms said they would have preferred a faster route out of lockdown and just 9% said they would have preferred a slower easing of restrictions.

The majority of those questioned (66%) said they will be able to operate at near-full capacity (80% capacity) or full capacity when restrictions for their sector are lifted.

The results of the research come a week after Lloyds Bank’s Business Barometer research revealed that UK business confidence reached a one-year high during March, when a quarter (25%) of firms also said they were planning to create new jobs in the 12 months ahead.

Regional breakdown

Firms in the South East of England were the most confident, with 70% of businesses in the region ready to operate at 80% capacity or more when they were permitted to reopen. Companies in the North West and the East of England also showed high levels of confidence, with two thirds (69% and 68% respectively) saying they could operate at close to full capacity. By contrast, less than half (47%) of Northern Irish firms said they will be able to operate at more than 80% capacity.

When Scottish firms were asked by the Bank of Scotland's equivalent survey whether their business would have preferred or benefitted from a different pace of easing, 46% said they preferred neither a faster nor slower easing of restrictions. However, a net balance of 40% of firms said they would have preferred a faster route out of lockdown and just 14% said they would have preferred a slower easing of restrictions. The majority of those questioned (59%) said they will be able to operate at 80% capacity or more when restrictions for their sector were lifted.

Sector insights

From a sector perspective, manufacturing is where the most businesses (73%) said they can operate at close to full capacity, followed by construction (68%), retail (66%) and services (64%).

“Following an extremely challenging 12 months for businesses everywhere, it’s encouraging to see firms’ optimism boosted by the imminent lifting of lockdown restrictions, with the majority being ready to operate at close to full capacity," said Paul Gordon, managing director for SME and Mid Corporates at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. "Despite these positive signs, however, there is still a great deal of uncertainty and the coming months will be crucial to the UK’s recovery. Whatever the future holds, we believe the resilience UK businesses continue to show in the face of adversity will stand them in good stead well beyond the end of lockdown."

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