COVID-19 Business Resilience Newsletter No 2

COVID-19 Business Resilience Newsletter
David Ralph, HotSW LEP CEO

In the second week of lockdown we at the LEP continue to work at pace with our partners to build resilience into the economy.

The immediate focus is to direct businesses to our Growth Hub which is being bolstered by additional resources as it steps in to help with free, up to the minute advice and support packages to mitigate this unprecedented crisis.

And we’ve also branched out into employment contingency with a new Virtual Careers site with live updates on new vacancies for employees looking for new jobs.

LEP staff are home-based so we’re working remotely on the current economic emergency; leading towards an exit strategy then recovery plan; and the LEP Board members now meet weekly via Teams to consider any additional actions.

The Heart of the South West Economic Resilience and Opportunities Group (HEROG) met remotely on Tuesday, sharing insight from a range of business representatives, which informs our feedback to Govt as to what’s needed.

Devon (including Plymouth and Torbay) has been identified by Govt as an area under particular strain caused in part by the closure of Flybe but also the impact on the visitor economy due to the lockdown. We’re gathering evidence from Somerset, which we understand to have similar issues.

We welcome the news that the Treasury is changing the rules on its emergency loans schemes, so that banks can get the money to cash-flow strapped businesses quicker.

However, there are a number of specific concerns around the speed in which financial support becomes available for businesses and individuals and gaps in support for those businesses and some of the self-employed who fall out of certain criteria.

These challenges have recently been highlighted and evidenced to the Department for Business, Energy, Innovation and Skills Local Economic Advisory Panel which met on Wednesday. A summary of this proposal will be published on our website.

We’ve also been working with Government to try to repurpose some of the EU and National Govt funding packages to help respond directly to the COVID-19 issue, and to ask for some flexibility of spend for projects that are not currently viable but still have a solid purpose when recovery begins.

Some progress has been made, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government having produced some frequently asked questions on the current and developing changes to funding rules. Details and links are available here.

We’re aware that as each day goes by, the situation will change and new issues faced by businesses in our area will emerge; so we’re reporting back on a weekly basis and continue to build our evidence base as new insights come in via the LEP and our partners.

There are a number of surveys underway to measure effects and to capture data so that helpful interventions can be made. The Government one is available here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-support-from-business

And the South West Manufacturing Advisory Service is carrying out a survey specifically about the manufacturing sector until 17 April: https://survey.zohopublic.eu/zs/dMB8VI

Farmers and growers can provide information on business critical issues on the NFU Covid-19 Impact Form and we’ll be issuing our next Quarterly Economic Survey shortly in partnership with the business representative organisations.

We are heavily focused on response at this time but when we reach recovery stage we will need to work hard on specific emerging opportunities in high value sectors such as clean energy, marine and knowledge-based industries; at the same time as sustaining our traditional industries of food, farming fishing and tourism.

As I said before, the Growth Hub website is the main point of contact for the latest business advice, so I don’t want to duplicate everything in this newsletter, but I’m sure one thing we all have in common is the slowing-up of internet connection as more people try to work and study from home.

So our Connecting Devon and Somerset broadband improvement service has published some useful guidance on how to improve your broadband speeds here: https://www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/making-the-most-of-your-connection/

HotSW Digital Skills Partnership

Finally, the Digital Skills Partnership newsletter (sign up here) has just been published and the Growth Hub newsletter (sign up here) was issued on Wednesday. To keep abreast of the immediate LEP and partner news as it comes in, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn channels:

@HeartofSWLEP @GrowthHubHotSW @HotSWSkillsCareers and on LinkedIn

Stay safe, stay resilient,

David Ralph