As the Government measures to support businesses through the lockdown are eased or phased out Guildford Borough Council continues to plan for economic recovery across the Borough.
Since our May Bulletin we have been working almost entirely on the Government’s Discretionary Grant funding programme. With that now behind us we are turning to the wider issues affecting Guildford’s post-Covid economy and identifying new opportunities for innovation. As always, we hope that you find the Bulletin useful and welcome your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ECONOMIC RECOVERY AHEAD – BOUNCE-BACK OR LONG HAUL?
We began our last Bulletin with this question. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics on 14th July revealed that the UK’s economy rebounded more slowly than expected in May, growing just 1.8% from April as the lockdown began to be eased.
We have been working hard in collaboration with Experience Guildford and Surrey County Council to re-open the town centre as safely as possible since non-essential shops were allowed to re-open on the 15th June. Measures include temporary barriers and short-term suspension of parking bays to widen footpaths, and signage to support queueing regimes and ‘keep left’ markers at pinch points. We are seeking funding from the Government’s Reopening High Streets Safely Fund to help with these changes.
In support of these measures we have produced two videos – one featuring the Leader of the Council and Lead Member for Economy focussed on how our restaurants and pubs are ensuring residents and visitors to the town are served safely: https://youtu.be/YKZ3B5FNa3Q
Secondly as part of the drive to get footfall back into the town centre, the Council’s creative partners at Experience Guildford joined forces with Nick White of GeeYou to promote the town centre and our local arts and culture scene through this uplifting video written and produced by Nick: https://youtu.be/Ey4mDMs7q3o
WHAT YOUR COUNCIL IS DOING NOW – UPDATE ON BUSINESS SUPPORT
We have so far supported 1,578 local businesses with £21.21m in Government grant funding, reaching over 95% of those that were eligible.
During May the Government announced its new Discretionary Grants Fund which was designed to help a range of small and micro businesses that had been unable to access the earlier Government funding. The discretionary nature of the fund, and local decision-making, meant we could focus on the small and micro businesses that had suffered the greatest hardship through lost income and ongoing property costs in the crucial March-June period.
As a result, the Council was able to help another 92 businesses with the £1.07m available.
In the event of additional Government funding being made available we will again publish details on our website www.guildford.gov.uk/business
Meanwhile the Government has made further changes to its Coronavirus Job Retention (‘furlough’) Scheme, which was extended to the end of October, but now with tapered funding and new employer incentives announced on 8 July to get employees back to work and boost the economy.
For full details see: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme
GOVERNMENT TO END LOCKDOWN BUSINESS SUPPORT
In a published letter (dated 23rd July) to Local Authority Chief Executives the Business Secretary Alok Sharma announced the closure of the Small Business Grants Fund, Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Grants (RHLG) Fund and Discretionary Grants Fund.
Mr Sharma noted how important these grants have been to businesses.
Given the schemes’ success, over 92% of eligible businesses nationally having received grants, he and the Chancellor had taken the decision that all three grant schemes, including the Discretionary Fund, should close by 28th August.
This will be disappointing news for the many businesses which “fell through the gaps” in funding support, especially those we were unable to support because the available Discretionary Grant funding was heavily oversubscribed.
However, the Secretary of State added that a “final few businesses” eligible to receive either the Small Business Grant or the RHLG have yet to come forward – if that includes you or a business you know, there are just three weeks to claim online at https://www.guildford.gov.uk/busgrant
REPURPOSING YOUR BUSINESS, RE-SKILLING STAFF AND “KICK-STARTING” OUR LOCAL ECONOMY
“Skills for Employment” is our new programme taking shape with career development professionals to develop a range of physical and virtual support to update and extend the employment support given by the Council in response to the 2008-9 financial crisis.
The best elements of the Guildford Job Club that ran from 2009 to 2016 will be brought back, with professional business partners playing a key role in helping individuals to learn new business-transferable skills enabling them to return to employment or start a business of their own. “Skills for Employment” will align with the Government’s recently announced “Kickstarter” scheme, designed to help 16-24 year olds.
As we emerge from lockdown, a number of former business employees in a range of industries and sectors are now seeking to 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.
If YOU are able and willing to play a part in “Skills for Employment” please email the Economy and Innovation team (email@example.comfirstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
LOCAL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT
One of an occasional series highlighting gems of the Guildford business scene. This month: ALCIS. Based on Surrey Research Park, Alcis provide geographic information services, with a mission to improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people in fragile and complex environments.
Alcis use a combination of satellite imagery and data with mapping software and teams of researchers on the ground to help address global challenges. Their work is diverse and ranges from analysing the rapid increase of solar powered water pumps to grow opium poppies (as reported recently by the BBC) to working with the University of Surrey on a maize mapping and sustainable water use project in Afghanistan. Alcis provide remote monitoring and, with the Coronavirus lockdowns preventing the movement of people, find themselves busier than ever.
NEW GUILDFORD BOROUGH COUNCIL PROCUREMENT STRATEGY
With the twin aims of securing savings in the Council’s budget and benefitting local suppliers, we have published our new strategy for procurement. Find out more here:
KEEP SURREY SAFE COMMUNICATIONS TOOLKIT FOR BUSINESSES JULY 2020
Surrey County Council has launched a phased communication campaign entitled ‘Keep Surrey Safe’ to raise awareness that everyone who has symptoms of Coronavirus can now get tested and that if they test positive they need to share contacts with NHS Test and Trace to stop the spread of the virus. By continuing to follow safety guidelines and engaging in Test and Trace, we can all play our part to Keep Surrey safe and avoid local lockdowns.
AN EMPLOYER’S GUIDE TO TEST AND TRACE
Surrey County Council is here to support Surrey’s businesses to ensure a safe recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. By working together to support the NHS’s Test & Trace programme we can slow the spread of the virus, to ensure that life will start to get back to normal and that our businesses can thrive again.
We’re appealing to employers to play their part by following the latest Government advice on how to work safely during Coronavirus and to help spread the word about Test and Trace. By ensuring working conditions are safe, businesses can also reduce the risk of many employees having to self-isolate and the disruption that follows, if a member of staff tests positive for COVID-19.
What you need to do:
- Follow the latest government advice which explains how to work safely in a range of workplaces and situations
- Consider situations which may lead to infections spreading including:
- areas where social distancing may be challenging e.g. changing rooms, smoking shelters, canteens and break out rooms
- car sharing
- staff working with symptoms to avoid losing their wages
- Plan for how you would operate if a number of staff were self-isolating
- Ensure employees self-isolate immediately if they have any Coronavirus symptoms and get tested straight away, as this needs to be done in the first five days of having symptoms
- Ensure employees self-isolate for ten days if they have Coronavirus symptoms, or if they have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace due to coming in close contact with a case, they must self-isolate for 14 days. This will help stop the spread in your workplace and community
- Support staff to work from home if they feel able
- Direct employees to the Government’s advice about what will happen to their pay whilst isolating and to your own sickness procedures
- If you are made aware of more than one confirmed case of Coronavirus in your workplace (whether by employees, visitors or NHS Test and Trace), employers should contact PHE Surrey and Sussex’s Health Protection Team on 0344 225 3861 (Option 3) for help and advice. They will support you by assessing the risks and identifying the appropriate steps to take
- Help us to spread the word, not the virus – share our posters, website and content in your newsletters and on intranets to ensure staff are well-informed and know what to do (communications materials can be sourced by contacting us at email@example.com
- Continue to play your part in protecting Surrey by preventing the spread and a second lockdown so we can all prosper again.
More information about the Test and Trace programme is available on Surrey County Council’s website. Thank you for helping us to keep Surrey safe and open for business.
GOVERNMENT PROVIDES NEW SUPPORT FOR BUSINESS RECOVERY
Thousands of smaller businesses in England are set to benefit from £20 million of new government funding to help them recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government has announced.
Small and medium sized businesses will have access to grants of between £1,000 – £5,000 to help them access new technology and other equipment as well as professional, legal, financial or other advice to help them get back on track.
The support will be fully funded by the government from the England European Regional Development Fund and distributed through Growth Hubs, including the local one serving the Enterprise M3 LEP area.
Detailed information on the criteria and how to apply for the fund will be available on the EM3 and Growth Hub’s websites (enterprisem3.org.uk and https://www.enterprisem3growthhub.co.uk/) as soon as the scheme is open for applications, which is expected to be before the autumn. Until full details are available more information on the Government’s announcement can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/20-million-in-new-grants-to-boost-recovery-of-small-businesses)
OTHER SOURCES OF ADVICE AND GUIDANCE
ACAS – The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service
Association of British Insurers – representing British Insurance sector
Surrey Chamber of Commerce
Business South – independent representative of businesses in Central Southern England
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development – professional association for HR management
Confederation of British Industry – represents larger businesses
Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership
Enterprise Nation – organisation supporting micro and small businesses
Federation of Small Businesses – Represents British micro and small businesses
Institute of Directors – Membership Organisation for Company Directors
Surrey Hills Enterprises – Membership Organisation for local businesses