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It would not be an overstatement to describe the last few weeks as frantic, predominantly for those delivering essential services and keeping our infrastructure running, whether on the front line or behind the scenes, including getting essential goods to our shops, developing and manufacturing new products to meet demand, introducing new suppliers to established supply chains and making sure key staff can get to work.

This week however it has felt like one of relative consolidation and contemplation for many organisations following the intense and frantic efforts across the previous few weeks to understand and access government support.

This does not mean we are in any way complacent or relaxed with the situation and there are obviously many businesses who remain in difficulties.

The job retention scheme was launched by HMRC this week and appears to be working well. The delivery of cash to claiming businesses within six working days will eventually be the deciding principle about whether the retention scheme is judged a success. It is a lifeline for many businesses and employees.

We continue to hear of complexities with the CBILS interruption loan scheme but understand that approvals are increasing and a new FAQ document has been produced to assist applicants (and lenders) in maximising the scheme’s ability to pump prime cash into ailing businesses.

The launch of the Business Rates Relief scheme and the imperative for grant funding for our hospitality sector businesses is a huge temporary relief for many. Yet the delays to the launch of the scheme, coupled with the flaws within the CBILS scheme, have resulted in such relief coming too late for many businesses in the sector.

Unfortunately there are clearly many businesses falling between the cracks of support, including those operating in shared office facilities and those who are self-employed delivering through a limited company and we are doing all we can to encourage the Government to do more. And whilst we, continue to provide evidence and case studies to support the extension of support to those excluded, we are beginning to turn some attention to the key question: “what next?”

Although we remain in a period of deep uncertainty and challenge, the potential road to recovery will soon commence. It is key that we take the opportunity to emerge in the position to deliver a strong, diverse and vibrant economy. The role of business within its creation and delivery is fundamental and imperative.

Over the coming weeks and months, we will be working with the national Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and partner organisations here in Lancashire to begin our economic recovery programme.

The importance of co-creating economic solutions by business at this time cannot be understated. The interruption – perhaps permanently – of ‘business as usual’ is likely to be a catalyst for big changes in how society and the economy functions. There will be considerable challenges for businesses across multiple sectors in both the ‘restart’ on day one and their rebuilding and recovery stages through the medium term.

We will be working with members and businesses to collect the views and market intelligence to help inform these recovery plans at ground level and in the political sphere. Gaining clarity from government around restart is going to be essential and a phased approach is inevitable.

The unintended consequences of the recovery phase will require careful consideration as will the opportunity to reshape how we do things – whether in the realms of business support, local procurement, supply chain management, risk tolerance or lending.

Please get in touch – we want to understand your experiences so far so we can plan ahead for the next stage of business recovery. You can email us at info@lancschamber.co.uk

All of us at the Chamber hope you get a chance to take a minute for yourself and your family this weekend.
Stay safe.

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