Newark Business Club Roundup
By Lisa Harrison – LJH Copywriting
It was a record-breaking meeting for the club this morning being the first to be held online. The pandemic has meant we've had to change how we connect and support each other. And, with over 100 members tuning in and joining the virtual meeting, it's clear that lots of local businesses are still passionate about making this happen. June's meeting was opened by Chairman, Kerri McGarrigle, and she welcomed us all via Zoom and Facebook Live.
This month's sponsor
Chattertons Solicitors and Wealth Management were this month's sponsor, and Jennifer Cooke introduced us to the business.
The law firm offers a variety of services for businesses and individuals from ten offices based in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and London.
With a focus on Newark, Jennifer introduced us to the Newark team. They manage a variety of services from this location, including:
Jennifer says her team are extremely busy after taking on more than 700 new housing plots and the "property market is moving", which is great to hear at this point.
Always eager to support a worthy cause, the company have made Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance their charity of the year. They'll be hosting a range of events to help fundraise, including a virtual quiz. More information will be released soon, so be sure to follow them on social media if you'd like to join in.
For more information on how Chattertons can help you, please visit https://www.chattertons.com/.
After a brief Q&A session with Jennifer, we moved smoothly on to our first breakout session. Dividing attendees into several breakout rooms, we continued to network as if we were sat around a table together.
Supporting UK Directors
After a successful round of networking, Carum Basra, corporate governance and policy advisor and secretary from the Institute of Directors (IoD), gave us an update. The IoD has been working to support businesses throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
With over 26,000 director memberships, the IoD welcomes businesses from a range of sectors and regions throughout the UK.
Carum is part of the Policy Team, and they work on a whole host of issues. They amplify the voices of members using the media and raising concerns directly with Lords, MPs and Civil Servants. Currently, the main focus of the team is Coronavirus. They're working hard, giving member feedback to the government and providing a clear picture of how the pandemic is impacting businesses, and pushing for support where it's needed.
They've been able to highlight some of the more pressing matters directors are facing at the moment. One of the issues the team are still trying to get the government to acknowledge is:
The government is acting on the feedback it's receiving from the IoD. For example;
And, what about business debt? Banks have approved £31.3bn of loans to 745,000 businesses under government-backed coronavirus lending schemes. The policy team are suggesting ways in which to handle this, for example:
NSDC – A Top Performer
Moving on, our next guest speaker was Sanjiv Kohli, deputy chief executive, director of resources from Newark and Sherwood District Council.
Sanjiv was keen to update us on Covid-19 and what the Council have done, are doing and their plans for moving us into the future.
The Council is in the top 10 of 314 local authorities throughout England and the best performer in terms of percentage support grant payouts, in Nottinghamshire. Sanjiv says they've been "proactive, flexible and responsive" towards the measures that the government announced".
Their emphasis and focus are on local businesses. When the government announced its business support packages, they acted quickly. They instantly released £7.4m pounds to start supporting business straight away without waiting for the government funds to come through.
NSDC has been supporting businesses using the three government grant schemes:
As of Friday 29 May, the Council has paid a total of £25.115m to 2126 local businesses.
On the 23 March 2020, it was announced that businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector would receive 100% relief from any business rates on occupied properties throughout 2020/21.
Moving forward, on Wednesday 3 June, the Council launched the local discretionary grant further support scheme. They've been allocated just under £1.3m to support local businesses. For more information, please visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-the-coronavirus-local-authority-discretionary-grants-fund.
Sanjiv said the Council are very aware that businesses are going to need some support and advice when they start to reopen. Newark and Sherwood have been allocated just under £109k, as part of the European Regional Development Fund. This fund will help them to introduce a range of safety measures to get people back to work and customers to shops. If you're a retailer looking for guidance on how to reopen safely, visit https://www.newark-sherwooddc.gov.uk/emergency/coronavirus/reopening/.
Getting Newark back on its feet is vital, and the Council are working on putting plans in place to do just that. We've got a bright future ahead of us, and Sanjiv and Newark and Sherwood council are working hard to make sure Covid-19 doesn't put a stop to that.
Robert Jenrick - Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
After another round of networking, Robert Jenrick joined the group for an update and Q&A session.
Robert told us, we're entering the next phase of the virus, we've made significant progress as a country, but the number of deaths remains high. We're at a delicate stage between level four and level 3 on our alert system, and we have to tread with caution.
The government are using the data they've collected during each phase of reopening, making sure that they're in control as we move forward. The government are also working closely with councils to support businesses so that they feel confident as they start to welcome back clients and customers.
They're now looking forward to July, when other areas of the economy can start to think about opening their doors again, in a Covid-19 secure way. They're hoping that we can conduct more of our lives outside by introducing more outdoor dining and markets,especially as we head towards typically warmer months. Newark seems to be seizing this opportunity.
The NHS test and trace service - https://contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk/ - is now live, but it will take some time before it reaches the usage levels they're aiming for. If you have the virus, you can now order the test. The opportunity is that millions of people will be able to live less-restricted lives, and the success of the system is critical.
Talking about the government's financial support package, Robert said over 8 million people are now having their wages paid as part of the job retention scheme. However, he warned there would be difficult times ahead, and unemployment rates are likely to rise. Robert praised the NSDC for how effective they've been in supporting the local area and getting grants out quickly. He claimed that Business Discretionary Fund isn't quite as discretionary as it sounds. The government are working towards whether there's the possibility of a successor to that scheme with more flexibility.
For the longer term and general economic recovery, it's clear that we have to rebuild. There has to be a smooth process to get people off the furlough scheme, hence the introduction of the flexible furlough scheme. And, locally, the plan is to see if any of the planned infrastructure projects can be brought forward, such as the dualling of the A46. The Newark Towns Fund and some of the proposals to improve education and tourism have been in discussion with a possibility of getting them signed off and moving by Autumn 2020.
Throughout the session, attendees took part in a series of polls on Covid-19 and our local area. The results will be published on the Newark Business Club's social media channels.
The meeting closed promptly at 9.30 am. Kerri thanked all of those who made the session a success.
Thanks to all of you who gave us your feedback. It's useful to hear what you think worked and didn't work. We're arranging another date for the next club meeting; more information will be released via social media, soon.