More than 40 people attended the Chamber’s second online Assembly this morning.
Hosted by Chamber president Robin Phillips from Siemens, the meeting began with Chris Fletcher, Policy and Communications Director at the Chamber, highlighting the Chamber’s Way Forward Plan, the reopening of the hospitality sector on 4th July and the introduction of part-time furlough.
Subrahmaniam Krishnan-Harihara, the Chamber’s Head of Research, then gave an update on the latest results from the Quarterly Economic Survey/Recovery Tracker. He explained that the data suggested there would be a “tick mark or Nike swoosh recovery”. He added that, between late March and early June, the proportion of businesses reporting that “sales remained the same” and “sales increased” had gone up.
There followed a general debate about the impact of coronavirus across a range of different sectors and identifying key priorities for recovery and growth.
Issues discussed included the growth in people prepared to do things online, especially older generations who had previously been reluctant. There was said to have been an increase in training sessions being conducted online, which could become a long-term trend as people find they prefer it to having to travel.
This growth in online usage was felt to highlight both the need for investment in digital infrastructure and the digital poverty faced by some children who do not have computers at home.
With many staff still working from home, it was discussed who was responsible for their health and safety. The importance of regular communication with your staff was also mentioned along with the pressures faced by employees caring for children and elderly relatives.
The fact there are fewer staff in the office was reported to be having a knock-on effect on surrounding coffee and sandwich shops. The need to attract people back into the city centre was also raised.
The impact on the cultural sector was highlighted as a major concern, with venues still unable to open and the Royal Exchange Theatre announcing it could have to make two-thirds of its staff redundant.
Despite the increase in home-working, it was reported that there was still a demand for office space in the city centre, but there had been a growth in interest in out of town locations. It was felt that the future trend would be for more spacious offices and more people working from home.
The Chamber will be taking the content from Assembly and updating its recovery plan document identifying the key priorities and asks of local and national government.