Latest Updates From Surrey Chambers CEO – January 28th
28th January 2021
Before we even finish the first month of the year so much has happened. Vaccines are being delivered at a great pace, which is crucial as we remain in a full lockdown. This week marked the 100,000th death from Covid, affecting so many families locally and reminding us how important it is to keep safe and protect the NHS. It seems incredible that we are approaching the one-year marker from the beginning of the pandemic crisis and the devastating effects on the economy.
Will there be a double-dip recession?
A key measure of this damage is seen in the latest published economic results. The decline of 2.6% in output in November was largely driven by the drag on activity from the second lockdown, with consumer-focused services firms, who are most exposed to lockdown restrictions, enduring a particularly difficult month. With any post-lockdown rally in output in December constrained by the tougher tiered restrictions, including the introduction of tier 4 measures, the UK economy is likely to have contracted in the final quarter of 2020. The third lockdown means that a double-dip recession in the first quarter of this year may be inevitable, particularly if the current post-Brexit disruption persists through the quarter. As part of the British Chambers network we are urging government to deliver a clear and comprehensive plan to support the economy throughout this year, rather than the short term fixes we keep witnessing. This should include closing the current gaps in government support, where some businesses have seen no grants at all and providing more significant grant funding to support cash strapped businesses. A fit-for-purpose Test, Trace and Isolate system remains critical to keeping the economy moving once the current lockdown ends.
Preparing our workforces for the future
Eventually we will come out of all the restrictions and we need to be even more focussed on the skills businesses will need to thrive. The government has released a white paper on skills putting the skills needs of businesses at the heart of the Further Education system. As local business leaders look to rebuild their firms and communities in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is essential to ensure that the right skills and training provision is in place to support growth. Chambers of Commerce can play a leading role in developing local skills plans that reflect the needs of employers in their areas, working closely with colleges, councils and other partners. Together, we can increase the focus on skills for the workplace – the digital, technical and broader skills that help businesses grow, succeed and create good jobs. In Surrey we already have great relationships with local training providers and we look forward to working with them, the Department for Education, businesses and other stakeholders across the FE sector to further develop these proposals, making sure more people can train and retrain for new and emerging jobs in their local communities.
Kickstart plugging a gap
Young people have had a particularly difficult time over the last year with unemployment rocketing, even in Surrey. One of the schemes put in place to help this situation is Kickstart, which provides 6-month government funded placements to 16-24 year olds. Surrey Chambers has been a Gateway for Kickstart from the beginning, supporting employers who only have a few placements to offer. We have been very disappointed to hear that some Gateways have not entered into the scheme with the right ethos and retained the £1500 training grant available for Employers. The Chamber has always accepted that this scheme is designed to tackle what will be a growing issue of youth unemployment over the next few years as we recover from the economic crisis and it is paramount that the needs of the Employer and the Young Person are at the heart of any Gateway offer. We will continue to support local businesses and build on the 300 placements we have already had approved by DWP.
Surrey Chambers of Commerce can be reached on 01483 735540, email@example.com, @surreychambers