The role of a Chamber of Commerce has never been more important than during these unprecedented times and Chew Valley Chamber is ready to rise to the challenge, keeping members up to date with developments and also representing their views and opinions so that government, both local and national, are kept in touch.
We have already circulated members with vital information about where they need to apply for business grants to help them through the immediate challenges. For example, Bath and North East Somerset Council have been given £46m to provide support and we have been in touch with their officers about how they are going about what is a daunting task. They need to establish who is entitled to apply and then process the paperwork and release the money.
In addition we are keeping in contact with members and are always willing to ensure that their concerns are passed on to the corridors of power. We can do that directly through our excellent connections with Bath and North East Somerset Council, but we can do more and help influence national policy through our membership of the Business West group, which has direct links into British Chambers of Commerce who are in daily contact with the Treasury.
Business West brings together the Chambers of Commerce and Initiatives right across the West of England and even further afield into Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Swindon.
One of the useful things they have done is to produce a special section in their website called Trading through Coronavirus - www.tradingthroughcoronavirus.co.uk
This portal provides information and allows businesses to share practical advice and support, answer queries, provide signposting and alert politicians to concerns.
There is also excellent advice provided by Bath and North East Somerset Council. You can email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and the team will respond directly. Alternatively visit www.investinbath.co.uk
Most recently they noted the Government has announced a new Expanded Retail Discount scheme for retail, leisure and hospitality premises under which, eligible premises will receive substantial assistance.
Government has also announced further business support measures which include a job retention scheme, new tax deferments and relaxation of Universal Credit eligibility criteria for those that are self employed.
One of the earliest concerns came from people who were worried their home broadband would not be able to cope with the large extra demand. But that produced an optimistic response from BT who said their network is built to support ‘evening peak’ network capacity, which generally means at least ten times the typical daytime (working hours) demand, driven by streaming video, sports content etc. The types of applications that people use heavily in the evenings at home – like Facebook, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky Go etc - use more bandwidth than typical working tools like emails, document collaboration software or even voice and video conferencing. So we should hope the vital link to the outside world will be strong enough for our needs.