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Steady as we go

By Sandy Bell, President of Chew Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Regular announcements about a relaxing of lockdown mean we are edging back towards normality, with more businesses opening and people beginning to gain the confidence to go out and about.

But I think a cloud of nervousness will exist for some time to come and that will impact on how we work and live our lives. For example, there are many older people who still have jobs and run businesses. They have done brilliantly despite the restrictions they have had to endure and will continue to make an important contribution to the local economy.

In the meantime, we are just getting on with things as best we can, picking our way through daily news stories which highlight that even the scientists can’t all agree on what is happening and what might happen in the future. All they do seem to accept is that it is too early to say very much at all with complete certainty.

One thing we can be sure of is that things will change to some extent. More people might work more often from home. That could mean increased demand for houses in the Chew Valley from people who no longer need to live close to big cities any more. It’s possible some will even start their own businesses which could increase the size of our economy and bring fresh jobs.

A lot of effort is being put into persuading more people to walk or cycle. That’s all very well if you don’t have far to go, but so many of our members rely heavily on their vehicles and that will continue to be the case. In fact, it’s quite possible there will be more cars on the roads as public transport struggles to cope with social distancing. The other day I heard from James Freeman at First Group, who explained a double decker which used to take 70 people can now only take 20, and that hardly increases even if the 2 metre limit becomes 1 metre. Those lucky enough to have a decent bus service may have a job to find a seat.

Locally people who lose their jobs may need to look for re-training so I’m pleased to say that Bath College and Bath Spa University are already looking at how they can provide short courses, some of which could be delivered online.

There’s a huge amount of information out there for businesses. Our Vice-President, Rod Podger, says he could write a book ! Whilst we wait for that to be published, he’s suggested a few useful links.

Rod also says that when it comes to the Furlough – Job Retention Scheme, it’s important to document and retain agreements with employees in case of future scrutiny. The scheme is becoming more flexible in terms of part-time return to work from 1st July but Government funding will reduce over time and is likely to end in October.

Applications for the first round of funding from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme must be made by July 13th.

It’s also important to keep evidence about how your business has been ‘adversely affected’ so that you could benefit from Self-Employment Grants, but the definition is vague and may not be purely financial.

Much more advice and information from Business West and Bath and North East Somerset Council:


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