When is the pandemic over and when does the recovery begin? That is the question at the heart of the work being coordinated by the Sheffield COVID-19 Business Response Group (BRG). BRG co-chair Alexis Krachai gives unLTD an update

The Sheffield COVID-19 Business Response Group (BRG) was initially set up by the City Council, Sheffield Chamber, Sheffield Property Association, Sheffield Business Together, Company of Cutlers and the regional Institute of Directors. Since then the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University and Unight, who represent the city’s bars and venues, have rolled up their sleeves. Shadow groups have also been set up so that more businesses can actively shape the development of the economic recovery plan that Sheffield needs to have.

Although we are slowly unlocking, many businesses are still reeling from the impacts of the shutdown that began at the end of March. For many, the idea of recovery still seems fanciful. Businesses need financial help and they need it now.

The COVID -19 Business Response Group was convened at the start of lockdown to ensure there is clear communication and coordination between the Council and business community in Sheffield as the city responds to the pandemic.

The group has:

Overseen the launch of the Sheffield Coronavirus Business Grants. The latest round of funding was designed following feedback from business groups so more businesses could apply for grants between £1000 and £10,000, depending on the size of the business.

Helped shape and support the £1.7bn The Sheffield City Region (SCR) Renewal Action Plan. The Plan has been developed by Mayor Dan Jarvis and the Local Enterprise Partnership to provide support for more than 55,000 training and job opportunities, 25,000 businesses and to create 3,000 apprenticeships. There is also a real focus on revitalising our city and town centres.

Identified six priority areas to help Sheffield’s economy come back stronger than before. These priorities are:

  1. Stimulating demand in the local economy, particularly by promoting local shops and businesses.
  2. Opening our city and district centres safely and securely to make people feel at home.
  3. Helping to stimulate the conditions to encourage more start-ups in the city. Entrepreneurs can be the heroes of the recovery.
  4. Invest more in skills training to help communities get back to work.
  5. Stimulating investment in culture to help rebuild confidence and visitor numbers.
  6. Rebooting the way the Council works with businesses on a longer-term growth strategy for Sheffield.

Some good work has been done but more is still needed. It is going to be challenging and turbulent for some time.

Whatever comes next it is clear that the pandemic will impact on our city in many ways for many years. It is also clear that we need to work closely together to support businesses and rebuild an economy that is stronger than before.

That will not be easy. The BRG is showing that a new partnership between the Council and businesses is being forged in the midst of a real crisis. That partnership will be vital in the years ahead.