As the Office of National Statistics discusses today, “no part of the economy remains untouched by the impact of the virus”.
They report survey data showing that around 1 in 4 British businesses has temporarily stopped during trading during the pandemic. In a town like Eastbourne, where hospitality, leisure, and tourism businesses have such a large role, we can expect the figure to be even higher.
There is welcome news then in the planned reopening of more businesses to customers, with greater infection control measures in place. Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be reopening from Monday, while a greater list of shops will be able to reopen two weeks later. Shoppers can expect to see new screens, signs and floor markings to inform them of new rules in each shop.
At the moment, we can expect pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, hotels, cinemas and places of worship to be able to open from 4 July at the earliest, if they can meet physical distancing measures. Much will depend on monitoring the progress of the first tentative steps out of lockdown, before giving the final go-ahead for more reopenings.
I spoke with a number of people this week to discuss positive ways forward - economically, socially and environmentally - for Eastbourne. The conversations included a call with the Chancellor and another with the Tourism Minister, where we discussed campaigns for further help for the hospitality sector and coastal communities like ours in particular.
I also spoke with local groups, including Eastbourne’s Eco Action Network, which is keen to improve cycling and walking routes and the prospects for a sustainable recovery were also discussed with dozens of local businesses in a call with the Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce,
The latest national figures from HMRC, show how vital government action has been to cushioning the economic impact so far. More than 1m employers have claimed £15bn for 8.4m furloughed workers, while 2.3m self-employed workers have received £6.8bn in wage subsidies.
In Eastbourne, rates relief for small businesses means that more than £25m in bills has been waived. Nearly £18m in grants has been paid out to 1,429 local businesses so far, using national money administered by Eastbourne Borough Council. Today, Eastbourne’s discretionary grant scheme goes live, with a further £1.2m to be distributed by the end of that process. Both my work and the news this week, have confirmed the scale of the economic challenge, but also the resolve of businesses, communities and government to work together to recover.
Special mentions go this week to local independent cafés Coffee & Carrot, who already offered a delivery service, but are now also reopening to passing trade for takeaways, and to Urban Ground, who also have new opening hours for great coffee. I look forward to visiting both of them!