Made up of businesses, universities, trade unions, local authorities, business groups and community groups, the Sheffield COVID-19 Response Group will meet regularly to make sure that everything is being done to make sure the city emerges as strong as it possibly can from the crisis. Here we find out how it can help you
What is the COVID-19 Business Response Group’s mission and which organisations are part of it?
The UK and the wider world’s immediate priority is fighting the virus to protect lives, but COVID-19 is having a massive impact on the economy. There isn’t a business that won’t be negatively impacted in some way.
Fighting this virus is about working together. Sheffield’s leading business networks and support organisations have come together to help respond to the business and economic challenges we face across the city.
Representatives from Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, Sheffield Property Association, Sheffield Digital, Sheffield Business Together, the Company of Cutlers, Institute of Directors and Sheffield City Region are working together strategically as the Sheffield COVID-19 Business Response Group. This crisis has brought everyone together to work as a single team and to ensure there is clear communication and coordination between the Council and business community as the city responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In practical terms how will this help small and medium sized businesses across the city?
The Business Response Group is coordinating a programme of activity to support businesses now and will oversee a recovery strategy once we get through the immediate epidemic.
The situation is changing daily. Our immediate priority is to raise awareness about the government support and resources available to businesses like the Small Business Grant Support Scheme or Business Interruption Loans.
We know a lot of businesses will be anxious. Businesses are trying to understand what support they can get and when. Cashflow is critical. Making sure businesses have free 1-2-1 support is essential. Local businesses concerned about their situation, can contact the Business Sheffield team to speak to experienced and knowledgeable advisers directly, they just need to call 0114 224 5000 or email email@example.com.
How quickly was this group pulled together and who instigated it?
The Sheffield Business Recovery Group was established in a few hours in mid-March when it became clear that COVID-19 was going to have a massive impact on our way of life and our economy. Initially Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Chamber of Commerce took the lead and established the group. Other business groups have also stepped forward so we can work as one joined-up team.
This is challenging and worrying for everyone in the city but one positive from this experience is that the business community and the Council are working together like never before.
People & Organisations involved:
Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Edward Highfield – Co-Chair of the BRG, Alexis Krachai – Co-Chair, Vice President, Chamber of Commerce and Managing Director, Counter Context, Martin McKervey – Chair, Sheffield Property Association, Louisa Harrison-Walker – Chair, Sheffield Growth Board, Mel Kanaerk – Director, Sheffield Digital, Vickie Brown – Board Member, Chamber of Commerce, SCC, SCR, Sheffield Chamber, Sheffield Property Association, Sheffield Digital, Sheffield Business Together, IoD, Company of Cutlers
In broad terms what was the city’s economy looking like pre COVID-19 and, without being too alarmist, what’s the situation now?
Whilst Sheffield’s economy has had a number of good years, we all know there is more to do to increase average wages and to become a fairer and more inclusive economy. We need more people starting and growing businesses. We need to increase productivity. We need to help improve skills across communities to strengthen the current and future workforce at all levels.
The situation right now is that businesses are facing massive challenges to stay afloat let alone think about the future. Cashflow is everything and, whilst support announced by Government is welcome, it can’t come quickly enough for most businesses. The last few weeks have been flat out as we have had to create new ways to get money to businesses.
What help do firms need most? Is it a cashflow problem for most, or has the crisis unearthed larger-scale, structural problems within businesses?
Having enough cash to stay afloat is the most immediate concern for most businesses. We know, however, that a lot of businesses were operating on narrow margins before, so taking on more debt to get through this crisis may mean servicing that debt is unmanageable in the future. This is why in the long term, we need more competitive businesses, trading in higher value sectors and supply chains, with a highly skilled local population so that we are more resilient to future economic shocks.
What simple, practical advice can you give to businesses right now?
Any businesses with concerns should speak to Business Sheffield about their specific circumstances and what support is available.
Businesses should also stay up to date with the latest local support and government guidance by visiting: www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/your-city-council/coronavirus-support-for-business. This information gets reviewed and updated on a daily basis.
You can also register for free email alerts from Sheffield City Council for the latest service updates about COVID-19: www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/your-city-council/coronavirus-email-alerts
Free 1-2-1 support and specialist advice is available from Business Sheffield’s team of advisors.
Businesses can call 0114 224 5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book an appointment with an advisor.
Aside from communities pulling together, which has been an obvious boost to the city, are there any other areas you’d like to highlight as positives?
It’s a hugely challenging time but this whole situation will give the Council and business community even more reason to look at the resilience of our economy and how we prepare for and respond to challenging situations. The impact of COVID-19 is unprecedented so we must and will learn from this experience.
There are government measures in place at the moment to support businesses, are you worried that the real struggle will come when these are withdrawn?
Responding to this crisis is a marathon not a sprint. We know that short-term funding to help with cashflow is only part of the solution. Businesses will also encounter longer-term challenges as the wider economy responds to this huge event. Some businesses will also identify opportunities. The impacts are likely to be felt differently across different sectors, depending on how long this lasts, how long restrictions are in place and how people’s behaviours and attitudes may have changed because of the lockdown. What is clear is that the measures put in place to date are just the start.
Many people already think the impact of this pandemic will be more severe than the 2008 financial crash and resulting recession. We know it took many years for Sheffield’s economy to recover and that some of the negative impacts on poverty and inequality are still felt today. It is essential that the Council and business community work together to ensure we put in place a long-term recovery plan for the whole city.
And finally, what further words of support can you offer businesses, employees and families at this time?
Sheffield is a place that pulls together in adversity. Support is there and will be there long into the future. Where there are gaps in that support, the public and private sector will do all they can to fix it quickly. There is enormous good will and capacity within the private sector to help each other and the wider community. We have already seen that with businesses helping the NHS and social care – and we have no doubt that will continue into recovery and beyond.
We need to keep collaborating. We need to make sure that whatever comes next focuses on the bigger issues. This crisis will make us look even more about how we build a fairer and more inclusive economy. We all have a role to play in not putting in place sticking plasters. We have an opportunity to build a better and stronger economy after COVID-19.
The current most comprehensive advice and guidance for Sheffield businesses can be found at:
Free 1-2-1 support and specialist advice is available. Local businesses concerned about their situation can contact Business Sheffield to speak to a Business Advisor on 0114 224 5000
or email email@example.com
Regular updates are also posted across Business Sheffield’s social media accounts: