BUSINESS BULLETIN and COVID-19 UPDATE – MAY 2020

With the first signs of an apparent easing in the national lockdown Guildford Borough Council is beginning to plan for economic recovery across the Borough, reflecting many recent changes to Council and/or Government policy.

The Economy and Innovation team of Chris Burchell and Chris Stanton has been engaging with many of you directly in recent weeks to stimulate take-up of the various grant funding schemes from the Government. As you read this edition of the Business Bulletin please let us know if there is additional support you think we could help with.  We hope that you find the Bulletin useful and welcome your feedback to business@guildford.gov.uk

ECONOMIC RECOVERY AHEAD – BOUNCE-BACK OR LONG HAUL?

The past two months of lockdown have brought about huge changes to daily life. For many home has now become the new workplace. Words like ‘furlough’ and ‘social distancing’ have entered the language while there have been unexpected opportunities to imagine a future where we live and work in greater harmony with nature, its wildlife and the environment we share. Many people have seen the impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus on global air quality, on our communities and in our lifestyle choices through consumer spending and volunteering activities. The focus of the past five years – Brexit and the risks to the UK economy of a hard ‘no deal’ outcome after leaving the EU – seems to have been totally eclipsed by the impact of the pandemic.

So where do we go from here – and how?

To begin with, Guildford Borough Council will continue to support your business through a mixture of national Government funding relief and local business support. Guildford Business Growth is our free business advice service open to all businesses in the Borough, no matter how small or large, whether existing or start up. The service is delivered by the Enterprise M3 Growth Hub and UMi on behalf of Guildford Borough Council and includes web chat, telephone advice with business advisers, face-to-face one hour clinics with a business specialist and workshops dedicated to helping your business grow. See www.guildfordbusinessgrowth.co.uk for more information.

The latest Government measures include new protections for SMEs and micro businesses that have not been able to claim through the schemes launched since 11 March.

In its 4 May Economic Briefing the Local Enterprise Partnership, Enterprise M3, published a detailed assessment of the pandemic’s impact on the economy at global, national, regional and local levels. For the latest information from Enterprise M3 visit https://enterprisem3growthhub.co.uk/coronavirus-covid-19.  The Enterprise M3 study looked in detail at the business sectors and specific industries that are most important to our local economy, identifying the following risks as the ones that will drive future economic and social changes, both positive and negative:

BUSINESS SOUTH SKILLS WORKSHOP FOR BUSINESS LEADERS – 5 JUNE

Are you working from home, feeling isolated from your team? Perhaps you’ve got family responsibilities and you may be furloughed and looking at risk of redundancy. Home life and work life are surprisingly fast moving and hour by hour you’re dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity. You’re starting to realise that the future you expected 3 months ago may not be the same post Covid-19.

So how do you motivate yourself and your team members when your means of contact is no longer face to face?

In this highly topical Business South workshop three business professionals focus in on change and provide top tips for your well-being, including how to motivate yourself and others in these changing times. For full details visit:

https://businesssouth.org/5th-june-skills-workshop-for-our-next-generation-of-business-leaders/

The Council is co-sponsoring this Virtual event with Charles Russell Speechlys, Surrey Heath and Waverley Borough Councils

CORONAVIRUS AND YOUR BUSINESS

For the latest information about the coronavirus visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

A new series of guides has been published to promote safe workplace practice in challenging the Coronavirus. Designed to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic, these 8 guides cover a range of different types of work. As many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles you may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe. Further guidance will be published as more businesses are able to reopen. The current guides can be downloaded from:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

General information to help businesses – including case studies – can be found at www.businesssupport.gov.uk/. Regular local updates are also made to our website www.guildford.gov.uk/business.

WHAT YOUR COUNCIL IS DOING NOW – UPDATE ON BUSINESS SUPPORT

By 17 May 2020 over £18 million had been paid by Guildford Brough Council to 1341 local businesses through Business Rates grant support funding. This represents 85% of local businesses that were eligible to receive grant funding, although some of these had ceased trading before the pandemic.

On 13 May the Government published its latest summary of business support grant funding, including guidance to Councils on the new Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund. Details can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-business-support-grant-funding

The new Discretionary Grants Fund is intended to help a range of small and micro businesses that have not been able so far to access Government funding. The Council’s Economy and Innovation team are working closely with Business Rates colleagues and economic development staff in other Councils across Surrey to decide the economic priorities in allocating resources under the Fund. Full details will be published on our website as soon as possible.

In early May the Government launched its new Bounce Back Loan Scheme, enabling Britain’s small businesses to apply for quick and easy-to access loans of up to £50,000.

Thousands of small firms and sole traders – including high street staples like hairdressers, coffee shops and florists – are now eligible for 100% government-backed Bounce Back Loans to help them make it through the coronavirus outbreak. Businesses can borrow between £2,000 and £50,000, with the cash arriving within days; loans are 100% government backed for lenders.

Businesses can apply online through a short and simple form with only seven questions. The government has also agreed with lenders an affordable flat rate charge of 2.5% interest on these loans and any business that has already taken out a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan of £50,000 or less can apply to have these switched over to this generous new scheme. To apply, see further information about the Bounce Back Loan scheme.

Meanwhile the Government has made a number of recent changes to its Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, including guidance for both employers and employees about eligibility to receive support through furlough and how to claim. The Scheme has been extended to the end of October, with furloughed workers across UK continuing to receive 80% of their current salary, up to £2,500 per month. New flexibility will be introduced from August to get employees back to work and boost the economy.

For full details see: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

If you are self-employed you will be aware of a number of developments since the Chancellor’s announcement of the Self-employment Income Support Scheme. Visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support for the latest information or, for phone advice, visit www.gov.uk/business-support-helpline.

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STOP PRESS – GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES FURTHER SUPPORT FOR CHARITIES AND SOCIAL ENTERPRISES . . .

At the 20 May Government Press Briefing the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed that the Government’s dedicated support scheme for small and medium sized charities – the Coronavirus Community Support Fund – is now open for bid applications from small charities.

Building on the unprecedented £750 million charity support package from government, there will initially be a £200 million tranche of government funding which will be administered by the National Lottery Community Fund and will focus on those charities that are a lifeline to communities at a local level.

The Secretary of State also announced the release of £150 million from dormant accounts to help social enterprises get affordable credit to people who are financially vulnerable and support charities tackling youth unemployment.

If you or your business actively support a favourite local charity do pass on this information.

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Beyond the Council’s business support on behalf of Government we are helping people across the Borough in many other ways:

  • 1,021 TELEPHONE CALLS received by our vulnerable persons helpline and housing advice services
  • 133,759 BINS EMPTIED PER WEEK (excluding commercial and street cleaning)
  • 1065.75 TONNES OF WASTE A WEEK (excluding commercial and street cleaning)
  • 1,087 FOOD PARCELS delivered countywide from Guildford Spectrum Leisure Centre
  • 4,919 TELEPHONE CALLS made to our most vulnerable residents
  • 399 FOOD PARCEL deliveries to our residents
  • 4,492 MEALS ON WHEELS delivered
  • 31,851 INFORMATION LEAFLETS have been delivered to households by staff and volunteers
  • 88 URGENT MINOR HOME ADAPTATIONS completed to keep elderly and vulnerable residents safe
  • 85 STAFF redeployed to welfare hubs and vulnerable persons helpline
  • 41 HOMELESS PEOPLE placed in accommodation
  • 40,613 WEB PAGE VIEWS on coronavirus section of our website
  • 57,939 SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENTS across three channels

NEWS FROM ALPS – ASSOCIATION OF LEARNING PROVIDERS IN SURREY

ALPS is a network of training providers and colleges who come together to support the local area in apprenticeships, study programmes and other vocational courses.  ALPS was established over 20 years ago and has a reputation for working closely with schools delivering the Apprenticeship Support and Knowledge programme in schools across Surrey.

Due to the pandemic many business needs have changed dramatically, possibly creating skills gaps within workplace environments.   Network Manager, Sue Taylor, says: “ALPS is here to help and support, whether it be training your existing workforce or looking at recruiting for a new role.  We are also able to advise on spending your levy contribution if you are a larger company. We would love to suggest suitable training providers to meet your requirements.

Taking on an Apprentice can be one of the most important decisions you make for the future of the business and it is important to not only select the right candidate(s) but also a Learning Provider who can support you and your Apprentice(s) in the journey.

You can find more information about ALPS at www.alpsurrey.co.uk. Sue Taylor will help with detailed enquiries about apprenticeships and advise you on the support that colleges and training providers can offer.

If your business has a training need which could be supported by ALPS please email Sue@alpsurrey.co.uk

RE-PURPOSING YOUR BUSINESS, RE-SKILLING YOUR EMPLOYEES AND RE-SETTING OUR LOCAL ECONOMY

Throughout this pandemic and the period of lockdown many comparisons have been made with WW2 e.g.

Negatives                                                                    Positives

  • Economic and political instability                        • Global solutions through co-operation
  • Huge national debt                                                 • Business re-alignment
  • Disruption to daily life / refugees                        • “Community” – the Home Front
  • Scarcity – rationing of food and energy              • De-mobilisation

 

As we emerge from lockdown over the coming weeks – hopefully, with no second outbreak of Covid-19 across the UK – the Council and its public, private and social sector partners will need to work closely together to realise the possibilities and opportunities that arise from the Positives shown above on the right. Good progress is already being made here but today’s equivalent of de-mobilisation is the furloughing, business closures and redundancies – and the need for businesses, entrepreneurs and employees to re-invent themselves. In the same way that Guildford’s Dennis Brothers moved from bus, refuse vehicle and fire engine production to build Churchill tanks in WW2, the University of Surrey recently produced over 120,000 items of PPE for use at the Royal Surrey Hospital and a number of local care homes through re-purposing its Mechanical Engineering Workshop. Local distillery Silent Pool Gin converted its production lines to the production of alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

The future workforce

The education expert Karl Fisch once wrote: “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that have not been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

Thanks to the pandemic, an (as yet) unknown number of former business employees in a range of industries and sectors will shortly and unexpectedly re-enter the jobs market. At the same time, thousands of school leavers, college and university graduates will be hoping to step onto the first rung of the career ladder.

As part of our future economic and strategic planning we are now in dialogue with career development professionals to develop a range of physical and virtual support to update and greatly expand the employment support given by Guildford Borough Council and a number of other Councils across Surrey in response to the 2008-9 financial crisis.

The best elements of the local job clubs that were established 10 years ago will be brought back, with professional business partners playing a key role in helping individuals to learn new business-transferable skills that enabled them to return to employment or to start a business of their own.

If YOU could play a part in this re-mobilisation of our local workforce please email the Economy and Innovation team via chris.burchell@guildford.gov.uk or chris.stanton@guildford.gov.uk to arrange a meeting. We are still working on the overall package of support and will update you in our next Business Bulletin and related emails.

INNOVATION IN YOUR WORKPLACE

How has the lockdown affected your business? Are there valuable lessons learned through remote working, converting your production or service business model to online working, or greater use of automation and artificial intelligence that you could share with others?

We’d like to hear your stories from the lockdown front line – please email Chris Burchell or Chris Stanton and we’ll feature these as Case Studies in future Business Bulletins. We have so much to learn from one another and may be surprised at the way a creative solution in one sector could lead to innovation and re-imagined vision capable of transforming a completely different business or industry in another sector.

OTHER SOURCES OF ADVICE AND GUIDANCE

ACAS – The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service

https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

Association of British Insurers – representing British Insurance sector https://www.abi.org.uk/products-and-issues/topics-and-issues/coronavirus-qa/

Surrey Chamber of Commerce

https://www.surrey-chambers.co.uk/representation/how-is-your-business-doing/

Business South – Independent representative of businesses in Central Southern England

https://businesssouth.org

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development – professional association for human resource management professionals

https://www.cipd.co.uk/news-views/coronavirus/faqs

Confederation of British Industry – Represents British larger businesses https://www.cbi.org.uk/coronavirus-hub

Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership

https://enterprisem3growthhub.co.uk/coronavirus-covid-19

Enterprise Nation – organisation supporting micro and small businesses https://www.enterprisenation.com/coronavirus-support/

Federation of Small Businesses – Represents British micro and small businesses https://www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19.html

Institute of Directors – Membership Organisation for Company Directors

https://www.iod.com/iod-coronavirus-support-hub

Surrey Hills Enterprises – Membership Organisation for local businesses

https://www.surreyhills.org/enterprises