Numbers paint a worrying picture

From Sandy Bell, President of Chew Valley Chamber of Commerce


We recently had another members’ meeting on Zoom, which is a good way of keeping in touch, though not a patch on our usual get togethers when we meet in person over a sociable drink.


So far we have relied on anecdotal information about how local businesses have been coping in the current situation. But now some hard statistics have been produced, which give us a better informed idea of how our economy is doing. Whilst we will continue to remain optimistic, there are definitely more clouds on the horizon.


Bath and North East Somerset Council have run the first of what will be quarterly surveys, to take the temperature, so to speak, of businesses in the district. I’d very much encourage as many people as possible to submit responses to the next round in November. It found that about a quarter of businesses expected they would reduce staff numbers, largely those in the retail and hospitality sector, and that over the last three months there had been 518 job reductions. On the bright side there had been 266 new jobs created.


There are currently 26,400 furloughed workers in the district, at 31%, that’s very much in line with regional and national percentages. But it’s a big number and there must be some uncertainty about the prospect for at least some of those people when the scheme eventually comes to an end.


Two thirds of businesses said they remained confident about the future, even though only a quarter of them had enough cash to see them through troubling times. That picture was reflected among our members with some reporting significant drops in their income, whilst others had done well, such as the Community Farm being inundated with requests for veg boxes.


Others have talked about weathering the storm, whilst some have looked to diversify, for example using technology to increase the reach of their business internationally.


However, it was left to our experienced Accountant Vice President, Rod Podger, to provide a grim assessment for the New Year when businesses will face a raft of tax bills – Corporation Tax at the end of December, Personal Tax at the end of January and potentially a double VAT bill in February if it had previously been deferred.


There’s no getting away from the challenges we all face, but if we work together, and continue to do business as a community we will give ourselves the best chance of future success.


If you’d like to join us in Chew Valley Chamber of Commerce please email me at tintinna@aol.com or have a look at our website – www.chewvalleychamber.co.uk

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