Craig Humphrey, the managing director of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub, is impressed with the way the business community is rallying round to cope with the Coronavirus.
“It has been reassuring to see how the local authorities have operated over the last few days and weeks.
“For example, Warwickshire County Council has stepped in to help the smaller borough and district councils in the area who have found it more difficult to action the grants put forward by the Government due to their cash flow resources so the local authority has expediated that.
“The allocation of funds for the grants from the Government is starting to flow through so, in turn, they will be on their way to businesses shortly. It has been a collective effort across our local authorities to ensure the grants are getting out there as quickly as possible.
“They have shown real leadership to alleviate the pressures and recognise the problems facing the business community.
“Even though we have asked HMRC a total of 62 questions around labour and welfare, some companies can have a business rates holiday and local authorities have been discharged with administering this and are acting swiftly.
“I worked in local government for 25 years before joining the Growth Hub and previously some of these measures would take three or four years to produce so these policies are being worked on in a much shorter timeframe which is unprecedented.
“It is not an easy situation because local authorities are having to do due diligence but these measures are essential to each business and the wider economy.
“One of the positive aspects of the current situation is how the Coventry and Warwickshire community is coming together to alleviate the crisis.
“We put out an appeal on social media on behalf of University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire for PPE equipment and we had over 1,500 replies which was tremendous.
“As well as helping the NHS, we are helping the social care and domiciliary industry with supplies as well.
“It shows how integrated we are in the business community and how business support organisations are coming together.
“Companies throughout Coventry and Warwickshire have also volunteered to adapt their machines to manufacture components the Government has called for including ventilator equipment.
“The response has been staggering with over 70 companies coming forward in Coventry and Warwickshire to make products they wouldn’t normally produce which is quite remarkable.
“It is testimony to the fact businesses want to help and it puts us in a good place when we start to think about recovery.
“I remember 2008 when the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which highlights economic trends in the manufacturing and service sectors, showed there was a record slump in activity across the West Midlands.
“This is similar to the 2008 crash since the current information shows one in three of all businesses are now closed which includes half of retail units and one in three employees have been affected while all automotive OEMs have stopped production.
“It will take some time before we can start to think about recovery but I’m in no doubt that we are in a good position in Coventry and Warwickshire when that finally starts to happen.”
Caption: Craig Humphrey, managing director at the CWLEP Growth Hub