Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce held its first ever online Assembly meeting on Tuesday.
The assembly, which was conducted via Zoom, focused on how the Chamber and the wider business community has been dealing with the impact of the coronavirus lockdown.
The welcome by Chamber President, Robin Phillips, was followed by an update from Chris Fletcher, Policy, Campaigns and Communications Director at the Chamber.
Chris outlined how, since the lockdown, the Chamber had been focusing on communicating with members by increasing The Brief to three times a week and launching the weekly Business Monitor survey, as well as providing regular social media updates and online events.
He added that the Chamber was assessing the effectiveness of the various government business support initiatives, with the furloughing scheme being so far the most effective and well run.
Subrahmaniam Krishnan-Harihara, Head of Research at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, gave an overview of the results of the weekly Business Monitor survey, which was launched at the end of March with a target of 100 responses a week.
He said the main factors of concern in the report were reduced volume or revenue and working capital and cash management.
The survey showed business confidence to be very low, with 75% of people giving negative responses. Awareness of government support was found to be high, but take-up was low for certain schemes, with less than one-fifth applying for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). Sixty to seventy per cent of respondents said they were putting staff on furlough.
Chris Fletcher then gave an overview of plans for recovery, including government guidance for workplaces, the problem of social distancing on public transport, which sectors might open first and whether the furlough scheme should be extended beyond June.
After the updates, members highlighted the following issues:
- The economic impact of redundancies
- The need to extend the job retention scheme for the hospitality, leisure and culture sectors, as these are likely to be the last to open.
- The impact on city centre retail if only a small percentage of employees return to working in the office
- The possibility of temperature testing at offices and construction, so that those showing a high temperature could be sent for a coronavirus test.
As work develops around what the recovery needs to address the views of business will be critical.
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