Tag Archives: Covid-19

Manufacturers looking for long-term measures from the government (Authored by Kunal Sawhney, CEO, Kalkine)

The United Kingdom has a vast and vivid manufacturing sector, including various industries like electricity, water, mining, oil & gas, and many more. As per industry body Make UK, the current annual output of the UK’s manufacturing sector is about £183 billion, and it continues to maintain its position as the ninth-largest manufacturing country globally.

However, the industry has been going through a crisis due to rising inflation, and the businesses within it are facing growing pressures due to the rise of input costs and supply chain disruptions. Manufacturing is severely impacted by high energy and commodity costs. At the same time, finding talent has become a major challenge, with vacancies at record levels, at 4.1 vacancies per 100 jobs. According to ONS data, as on 10 June 2022 number of online job adverts was the weakest in the manufacturing sector when compared with three weeks ago, among all the major industries.

Pandemic and its impact on manufacturing

The COVID-19 pandemic had impacted almost all the sectors and manufacturing was among the severest hit with a significant reduction in the output in 2020. As per ONS data (Office for National Statistics), the total value of the UK’s manufacturing product sales declined by 10.8% to £358.7 billion in 2020 compared to £402.2 billion in the previous year.

While almost all the manufacturing divisions witnessed a decline in sales, the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and paper and paper products witnessed modest improvement during the period. However, once the restrictions started easing, the output value of the sector began returning to normal despite high prices and supply chain bottlenecks, and it was being expected that things would be back on track by the end of 2022.

All the high hopes to see a turnaround by the year-end were dashed amid a worsening cost-of-living crisis. Producers of consumer goods struggled to raise the demand as households face surging energy bills and there is a continuous decline in consumer confidence.

The latest data revealed that British manufacturing activity expansion was weakest in May 2022 since January 2021 at 54.6. It clearly shows the squeeze on household finances and the risk of recession weighing on the minds of consumers. For yet another month, costs paid by manufacturers and selling prices witnessed a rise in May.

What is the sector asking for?

The Q2 survey report of Make UK/ BDO has revealed that investment has taken a big hit, and companies have been deferring or shelving their plans to maintain their cash flow, amid weakening consumer confidence with growth and orders showing a sharp decline. Exports are still not showing any signs of sustainable recovery.

Rapidly rising input costs may not leave the manufacturers to continue till Autumn, when Chancellor Rishi Sunak had promised help during the Spring Statement. The prevailing situation calls for an immediate and urgent need for help for the manufacturers, keeping in view the grim outlook for the next six months.

As per Make UK, manufacturers are now not looking at any short-term measures and would rather expect the government to focus more on business and foreign investors, which could portray the country in a more serious manner with a long-term vision.

  • Manufacturers have been asking the government to either remove or reduce the business rates for the coming one year.
  • SMEs should be provided with a waiver of VAT, while large businesses can be given some deferrals.
  • There has been a demand for the extension of the super-deduction investment policy, a means that allowed the businesses to claim a much higher tax deduction in the tax year of purchase for qualifying equipment compared to what it could have been normally.
  • The climate change levy should be stopped for the time being, and if the energy cost continues its rising spree, it should be completely abolished.
  • There is also demand from the manufacturers to make the increase in AIA (Annual Investment Allowance) permanent. Late last year, the government had temporarily increased the AIA from £200,000 to £1,000,000 for a qualifying outlay on plant and machinery.

Are banks shying away from lending to small businesses?

Written by Kunal Sawhney, CEO, Kalkine

When the confidence among the small businesses was already showing signs of dwindling amid record-high inflation and supply chain bottlenecks, the latest report of the Blackpool-based Federation of Small Business (FSB) will shake it further. The survey report revealed that in the first quarter of 2022, small businesses struggled to access finance.

The survey results FSB, the UK’s largest campaigning group for small businesses, has highlighted that companies and banks in Britain remained concerned about the worsening economic outlook, which resulted in lending to small businesses falling to its lowest since at least 2014. Just 9 per cent of small businesses applied for finance in the first three months of this year, and the number of approvals for finances reached a record low of 43 per cent.

The most striking thing was that a majority of smaller businesses sought finance to help with their cash flow requirements. Not only this, one in ten small businesses are mulling closing, downsizing, or even disposing of their businesses over the coming year.

Deteriorating small business scenario

Small businesses have been hit hard in the country, first by the Brexit and followed by the unprecedented event of the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of small businesses in Britain witnessed a drastic fall of 6.5 per cent to around 5.5 million at the start of 2021 compared to the last year. Small businesses, especially the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), that account for 99.9 per cent of them and are the major employment generator, with three-fifths of the total UK private sector employment.

SMEs have faced a challenging situation in 2021, which is still continuing, with many reporting no-cash and a low level of confidence in survival, as they not only had to deal with the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic but also with the implications of Brexit during 2021. Small businesses continued experiencing significant challenges limiting their capabilities to engage in innovation and finish projects on time.

Lending for small businesses is getting tough

Going by the FSB survey results, the majority of the 1,211 small business owners and sole traders surveyed in March and April sought traditional overdraft or loan products, and 25 per cent went for asset-based finance, about 7 per cent sought funds through P2P lending platforms, while 5 per cent via crowdfunding. Small businesses are already struggling to repay the support taken from the government during the pandemic, and if the further funding dries up, the possibilities are that they will default and ultimately get closed.

Even the latest report from the Bank of England (BoE) has shown the annual growth rate of lending to SMEs reached a record low. There have been business disruptions that have been stressing the revenue generation of small businesses; while many in the survey reported late payment of invoices; these could be the reasons they are delaying repayments.

Final thoughts

The central bank has not only raised concern over the declining lending to the small businesses but has England warned of a sharp economic slowdown and a recession, with inflation surging to over 10 per cent record levels by the end of this year. At this juncture, if the lenders start shying away from the small businesses, it could turn detrimental to the already faltering economic recovery. Small businesses contribute a major chunk to economic growth and are a major source of employment generation. Now is the time for the lenders to come out of their outdated lending processes and rigid criteria to support small businesses and the nation’s overall economy.

Trek4ME Digital Healthcare Launched to Revolutionize HealthTECH

Trek4ME Berhad has launched its primary Integrated Digital Healthcare Platform, aptly called, ‘Trek4ME’.

Originally mooted during the Covid-19 Pandemic, Trek4ME has being evolved continuously and assisted in the fight against the pandemic in various parts of Malaysia with over 30,000 screenings in addition to monitoring over 150,000 extended families and communities.

Firmly believing in adapting to the market, Trek4ME continues to remain relevant from the Pandemic stage to Endemic and moving to the Normalcy phase. The platform focuses on multiple key pillars such as Activity Monitoring (Virtual Communities: E-Trek), Telemedicine (E-Health), E-Commerce in addition to E-Wallet and E-Rewards.

This integrated approach helps to position Trek4ME solidly within the Market-space, notably, targeting Closed Captive Markets with strong Monetization and Multiplier Potential.

Having already established strategic partnerships with some of the top Closed loop market movers and Pharma companies, Trek4ME is well positioned to become the most relevant HealthTECH app and digital platform that will digitally transform the nation and region. And along the way, nurturing the Digital Lifetime Health Records that the country yearns for.

Trek4ME Berhad, is founded by seasoned Entrepreneurs and Technopreneurs including Dato’ Dr Emmanuel Benson and Ts. Gerard Pillai, who are also award winning HealthTECH professionals.

The company is currently in the midst of a Corporate exercise and has already generated interest from other countries.

Trek4ME, ‘Revolutionizing HealthTECH’!

For more information, please visit www.Trek4ME.com

Room Shield seals Ezisan deal and new Board Advisor appointment

A major high-profile appointment is set to help a Midlands hygiene specialist realise a £multi-million opportunity for its revolutionary sanitising solution.

Room Shield, which was formed by entrepreneurs John Donnelly and Kevin Parr, has attracted Hamish Taylor as a Board Advisor to help it build a clear marketing story for its Surface Shield HOCL (hypochlorous acid) products and to broker new relationships in key sectors.

The former Procter & Gamble specialist, head of brands at British Airways and CEO of Eurostar UK Group will bring his vast experience of building customer-centric journeys and creating a compelling narrative to educate the marketplace on the benefits of the solution, which is cleaner, safer and faster than existing offers.

He has already used his corporate background and consultancy career to introduce the firm to several blue-chip clients that might be able to benefit.

The appointment comes just a few weeks after Room Shield signed a strategic partnership with Ezisan to use Surface Shield in all the company’s nano fog dispensers.

“I have to be really excited about an innovation or product and John and Kevin definitely sold a compelling story about their venture and the massive potential it has,” explained Hamish, who has delivered presentations to hundreds of corporates in 43 different countries.

“HOCL is a water-based hypochlorous disinfectant formula that kills 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.99% of viruses and can be used in all environments, including bars, food preparation areas, restaurants, gyms, hotels, transport, schools and workplaces.”

He continued: “What Room Shield has done successfully is found a way of bringing a fully accessible range of products to the general public, and this unique market position is something we plan to capitalise on with distributors and strategic partnerships like the Ezisan deal.

“My main role will be to use all my experience with building brands to find a way where we can place the customer at the centre of the Surface Shield story. This is going very well and something we will look to ramp up in the coming months.”

By increasing the shelf life of its HOCL formula, Room Shield has made the sanitising solution accessible to all and there is no safer and more effective product currently available.

Approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it will protect against bacteria and viruses and, importantly, will help prevent the dermatological issues that can arise from using too much hand sanitiser that has alcohol or sensitising chemicals present.

The strategic deal with Ezisan is a major breakthrough and will see Surface Shield used in all of its nano fog dispensers that are already being used at events, in hotels and places of work, including at the BBC in London.

“The aesthetically pleasing unit is an easy-to-use, no touch solution that can sanitise a person’s hands, mobile phones, hotel key and credit cards in seconds,” added Kevin Parr, co-founder of Room Shield.

“Ezisan has exclusively agreed to use our HOCL formula in all of its dispensers, predominantly due to its cleaning performance and the fact it leaves no residue or liquid behind. It’s also very cost effective, with 1.5 litres of our solution able to sanitise up to 10,000 people.”

Rob Searle, Director of Ezisan, added his support: “When we researched the performance of the various solutions available, Surface Shield was identified as the fastest, safest, and most effective product available.

“Our orb units are design and manufactured in the UK, so it’s great to be able to have a fellow UK company as our exclusive partner on the project. There’s lots of interest in our system, which automatically activates, can be desk or floor mounted and ensures no drips or splashes that you sometimes get with gels/liquids.”

Kevin concluded: “2022 has got off to a great start, with the Ezisan deal and Hamish Taylor joining us a board advisor, which is a real coup for us.

“We’ve got first market advantage and there is nobody better to help us create a compelling customer story that will help drive demand for Surface Shield both in the short and long-term.

“There’s a £multi-million opportunity out there, but we need to educate, educate and educate. If we get this right, growth is exponential and will result in many new UK jobs.”

 

Human health and social work activities: Major catalyst of GDP growth

Written by Kunal Sawhney, CEO, Kalkine

It has been a positive surprise for the UK, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) made a bounce back to positive territory in January to 0.8 per cent after falling by 0.2% in the final month of 2021. The numbers are above the pre-Covid-19 levels of February 2020, and one of the major contributors to the high GDP growth was the unexpected rebound in food and drinks services of 6.8 per cent.

Though all the sectors contributed positively, it was the growth in services up 0.8 per cent, production up 0.7 per cent and construction up by 1.1 per cent, which is worth mentioning, while some lag was seen in activities like service and real estate.

Human health and social work sector

As per the data of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the GDP growth during the period, February 2020 and January 2022 was majorly driven by human health and social work activities. This is the segment that has been in focus for the last two years. Statistics reveal that the number of workers suffering from work-related ill-health surged in 2020/21, which broadly remained flat before the coronavirus pandemic. Of the estimated 253,000 work-related ill health cases, almost half (49 per cent) constituted of stress, depression, or anxiety.

Health and social care sector play a vital role in nations’ development and growth, providing high-quality and sustainable care at the right time in the right place. Around 5 million people are employed in the sector.

The major industries which hold the highest level of concentration in Human Health and Social Work Activities include Hospitals, Learning Disability, Mental Health & Substance Abuse Facilities, and Corporate Wellness Services. If we dive deep into the industries in the segment, industries that have high-profit margins include health and wellness spas, followed by cosmetic surgeons’ clinics, corporate wellness services, and telehealth services.

Challenges and remedies

The sector played a crucial role in the unprecedented event of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the pandemic also highlighted some chronic problems of the sector apart from the shortage of staff. The sector has witnessed a steady increase in the number of people employed, though it is confronted with many challenges. The sector needs special attention from the government as it has been at a faster pace compared to other sectors, while it is dominated by the female workforce but at the same time has been facing a gender pay-gap.

It has been historically proven that investments in the health care sector have considerable economic multiplier effects, which help in the growth of the broader economy. The sector serves all classes equally and is crucial for the unserved population, who, if not taken care of, cannot fully contribute to the economic growth.

Creating adequate work opportunities for the human health and social work sector plays a vital role in economic development, and the large deficits of adequate health worker requires a rejig of the current health employment policies to get optimal economic returns on investment in the sector.

Is UK’s business investment moving into post Covid recovery?

Writtem by Kunal Sawhney, CEO, Kalkine Media

In the last quarter(Q4) of 2021 (October to December), business investment in the UK has gone up by 0.9%, according to the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). However, this was 0.8% lower than the business investment in Q4 2020. Both business investment and gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) across the UK economy have gone up in Q4 2021, but the levels of growth have been different, with GFCF growing by 2.2% as compared to the 0.9% growth in business investment. GFCF was 2.3% more than what it was in Q4 2020. During the pandemic phase, this divergence between the investment patterns of businesses and the government has been widely observed.

Transport equipment the biggest contributor to growth

There was a 0.7% decline in the UK’s business investment from 2020 to 2021. However, positive contributions towards the growth in business investment were made by transport equipment and dwellings. Even though GFCF was 4.7% less than the pre-pandemic 2019 levels, it went up by 5.3% from 2020 to 2021 due to these positive contributions.

The business investment received a positive contribution from transport equipment, which has demonstrated the biggest periodic growth since Q3 2020, standing at 60.2% in Q4 2021. This growth has been witnessed after 2021’s annual reduction of 20.4% for transport equipment. The low investment in transport equipment has been a major concern lately due to the ongoing semiconductor shortage being observed across the globe. Some transport equipment like aircraft and ships have very high value, which leads to high volatility in the transport investment.

The second major contributor to the growth in business investment was dwellings, which grew by 5.7% in Q4 2021. The 2.2% growth in GFCF was mainly due to the positive contributions made by dwellings, transport, government, and intellectual property products (IPP). From 2020 to 2021, there was an 11.9% increase in government investment, which marks the highest such increase since 2008. Also, as compared to the 2019 pre-pandemic levels, there has been a 14.8% increase in government investment.

All the other assets reported negative contributions to business investment growth in Q4 2021. Transfer costs went down by 5.6% in Q4 2021, negatively impacting the business investment growth. After the stamp duty holiday ended in Q3 2021, transfer costs fell in Q4, pulling the GFCF down. The most significant downward contribution to the GFCF was in fact made by other buildings and structures, which fell by 0.7% in Q4 2021. However, these negative contributions were countered by the positive contributions made by transport equipment and dwellings, as mentioned above.

Survey displays diminishing uncertainty

The survey not only gives quantitative but qualitative data. As per the survey comments in Q4 2021, the level of uncertainty has been declining as compared to the Q2 2019 and 2018 levels, as uncertainty was mentioned in only 20% of the comments. Transportation, manufacturing, and storage industries had the highest levels of uncertainty on an industrial basis in Q4 2021. Different sectors of the economy have shown different levels of resilience in tackling the pandemic, and it is evident that there is industrial disparity as well as the disparity between business investment and GFCF in the UK economy.

UK manufacturing activity likely to improve further in 2022

Written by Mr. Kunal Sawhney, CEO, Kalkine Media

The manufacturing activity in the United Kingdom is likely to ameliorate further in the present calendar year as the pandemic-related hardships subside over the coming months. The domestic market sentiments have continued to improve in the terminal quarter of 2021, even as the Omicron-led fears forced the government of the UK to reimpose mask mandates, alongside some precautionary measures to contain the rate of infection.

Though the measures taken by the Downing Street administration have failed to help in lowering the rate of infection as the country reported record surges in daily infections with the daily count nearing 200,000.

With the onset of the new calendar year, the manufacturers are anticipating a fresh bounce back in the orders as existing challenges including the faltering supply chain and logistics activity, and short-staffed operations are expected to moderate further in the present quarter. On the other hand, the problem of higher input prices may stretch up to the first half of 2022 as the Bank of England has already warned that the rate of consumer price based inflation will peak in April of this year.

Given the persistent business environment due to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant and towering increases in the total number of infections on a daily basis, the enterprises handholding the growth of manufacturing sector may get affected if the government proceeds ahead with another nation-wide lockdown or strict set of reciprocatory measures including heightened border control, curtailed domestic movement and limiting the operations of local enterprises that have driven the major rise in the footfalls in the recent past.

If the government manages to bring down the rate of infection with the present set of restrictions then the manufacturers can swiftly escalate the rate of production, as a result of which national economic output can witness sustainable upsurge.

In the month of December 2021, the rise in number of new orders, production levels, along with the employment activity, collectively steered an increase in the factory activity with the Manufacturing PMI rising to 57.9. According to the seasonally adjusted data provided by IHS Markit/CIPS, the PMI remained above the mark of 50.0 for the 19th straight months as the overall pace of expansion improved to a four-month high.

However, the comprehensive pace of expansion was disturbed by the untimeliness of orders due to malfunctioned logistics systems and industry-wide limitedness of skilled workforce. The considerable increase in the levels of manufacturing output was thoroughly supported by the domestic enterprises as market operations of local enterprises continued to improve. The cross-border hardships were there as the new orders from overseas locations dropped for the fourth straight month, continuing the negative trend for export businesses.

According to the survey, the manufacturers have complained about the possibilities of further pandemic-induced restrictions, persisting post-Brexit difficulties and logistics challenges. All these factors combined once again hit the demand from overseas markets at the end of 2021. Nonetheless, the demand for capital goods manufactured in the UK from the international markets jumped at the sharpest pace since August of 2021.

Continuing the trend of an upbeat job market in the UK, the employment in the manufacturing sector of the UK surged for the 12th consecutive month in December, effectively the whole 2021 contributed towards employment growth. Though the rate of jobs growth remained near the three-month high figure realised in November of 2021.

Despite the partial subduedness in the market due to the unfavourable business conditions on the back of Covid activity, the majority of manufacturing corporations have maintained a positive outlook in the terminal phase of 2021. Approximately 63% of the enterprises are anticipating the production levels to increase in the upcoming 12-month stretch, while a meagre 6% have projected a contraction in the present calendar year.

As the companies increasingly passed on the pressure of higher input prices to the consumers, the rate of increases in the factory-gate prices jumped to a new series-record high in December of 2021.

The inflationary hurdles are expected to subside by the end of H1 2022, as a consequence of which the upcoming policy actions by the Bank of England, alongside the commentary by the Federal Open Market Committee of the US Federal Reserve will be keenly watched by the corporations, as well as the investors.

The companies have also remained optimistic, as far as the pre-decided investment is concerned and the apparent hopes of less disruption due to Covid-19 pandemic (SARS-CoV-2) virus, the cumulative aftereffects of Brexit, supply chain troubles and other operative challenges.

Omicron consequences UK businesses may face in 2022

The number of consequences of the Omicron variant transpired so far have certainly increased the apprehensiveness amidst a slew of small-to-large scale businesses, as well as institutional investors across the world as the new strain continues to quash the immunity obtained from the double-jabbed Covid-19 vaccination programme. The newly emerged mutation of Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) repealing the so-called maximum protection has severely deteriorated the marginal confidence.

Businesses across the world that were not able to resume their operations at the maximum possible scale were eventually looking forward to the next year, 2022, taking a fresh start with adequate staff size and minimal operative hurdles, the move that can accelerate them beyond the pre-Covid level of revenues.

The fresh unrest in the markets, including the cross border trade and disturbed international movement due to heightened border control measures, alongside the mini lockdowns and increased level of pandemic-induced restrictions have furthered the difficulties for enterprises operating in various industries.

Given the increased volatility and uncertainty with regard to the evolving nature of Omicron variant, higher transmissibility and ability to supersede the vaccine-acquired protection, the upcoming course of few quarters is likely to remain patchy for most of the industries, unless the healthcare authorities, along with the prospective vaccine makers and pharmaceutical corporations manage to formulate a meaningful response that can essentially bring down the rate of infections, as well as the vulnerability of people against the fresh strain.

Here are some of the potential consequences of the Omicron variant that can hurt businesses in 2022:

 

Reintroduction of lockdowns

Several countries are continuously examining the evolving course of Omicron variant, the daily rate of infections and the people seeking immediate medical intervention.

Following the sharp increases in the cases associated to the Omicron and previously existing Delta variant, the rate of hospital admissions has also seen a steep rise, effectively burdening the healthcare settings and limited resources to reprioritise the work of already deployed manpower to Covid care patients.

Earlier last month itself, the Austrian government reintroduced the fourth national lockdown after the country reported consequential increases in the cases linked to the Delta variant.

The recent lockdown announcement by the Netherlands government has escalated the jitters as investors and businesses are fearing a similar precautionary action to be taken by other European nations with a focus on the United Kingdom as it crossed 30,000 Omicron infections on Sunday, 19 December.

Nation-wide lockdowns materially restrict the commercial activity in the region, delaying the time of recovery as a large section of businesses still grapple with broken balance sheets and minimal earnings due to curtailed operations for most part of the pandemic era so far.

 

Reciprocatory restrictions

As a bunch of countries look forward to imposing country-wide shutdowns, some economies are contemplating the course of pandemic to reintroduce a set of pandemic-induced restrictions that can essentially help in bringing down the rate of infections.

Not only these curbs, the governments are gradually increasing the border control measures. Following the continuous rise in the cases, the administrations will be left with no option other than to completely restrict the non-essential international travel. A slew of hospitality settings, indoor, as well as outdoor are poised to be affected in the near term as lockdown guidelines will certainly disrupt the operations, as some governments may order such enterprises to completely shut their functions for a certain period of time.

The lockdown restrictions have done no good to any business, barring several sectors including real estate and essential retail. No matter how limited is the scope of restrictions, the overall business environment is likely to be affected in a broader way, effectively paving the way for elongated extended pessimism amidst the market participants.

In order to bolster the precautionary steps taken by the devolved administrations, the Downing Street administration has doubled funding set aside to tackle Covid challenges in the respective geographies. According to the fresh updates, the administrations can spend an additional £860 million to take necessary steps that are required to keep people safe.

Markets to be affected in short-to-medium term as Omicron cases intensify

Written by Mr. Kunal Sawhney, CEO, Kalkine Media

The sharp jump in the number of infections associated with the Omicron variant has materially increased the apprehensiveness of market participants as the government of the United Kingdom is expected to reintroduce some pandemic measures to contain the spread of virus in a matter of few weeks.

Given the high rate of infection across the widespread geography of the UK, the healthcare authorities have turned cautious as a large number of double-jabbed individuals are returning positive with the Omicron variant. On Sunday itself, the UK registered a 65% rise in the cases linked to the new variant with the total count of infections mounting over 3,000. As of 12 December 2021, the total number of Omicron infections stood at 3,137 following a rise of 1,239 confirmed cases on Sunday. Of the total, 2,953 cases have been confirmed in England with a single-day increase of 1,196 cases.

According to the latest estimates by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the Omicron variant has been spreading at a rapid pace across England with the country reporting a sharp surge in confirmed cases. As far as the transmissibility of variants is concerned, the new variant has been spreading more effectively as compared to the previously existing Delta variant.

Markets have experienced a lacklustre trade in the fourth consecutive session on Monday, 13 December as investors continue to contemplate the extent of damage due to the emergence of cases. According to the UKHSA, the Omicron variant will become the dominant variant in the upcoming days, accounting for over 50% of the total Covid infections in the country by the middle of December if it continues to multiply at the current rate.

High rate of infection is highly likely to increase the burden on the National Health Service (NHS) as the rate of hospital admissions will also soar as a proportion of patients remain vulnerable to such virus-induced infections.

Shockingly, the UK is set to surpass one million infections linked to the Omicron variant by the end of present month, if the prevailing rate of infection continues without any major correction.

Such a resurgence of cases in a country that started the Covid-19 vaccination drive, at a time when most of the businesses are looking forward to recognising a substantial increase in the earnings can severely disrupt the path of economic recovery as the services sector, mainly the enterprises operating within the hospitality industry are yet to see a meaningful rise in the revenues.

The government of the UK has already tightened the restrictions at various settings that are likely to host large gatherings. A large section of people who have made bookings around the Christmas season and the subsequent year-ender holidays have already cancelled the upcoming arrangements, reigniting the jittery amidst the businessowners. A number of enterprises have downsized their expectations from the festive season as anticipated earlier.

Most of the commercial settings were expecting to witness a sharp bounce back during the festivities, a period that can accelerate them on the so-called path of recovery. The adversities associated with the Omicron variant have once again renewed the tensions as European nations were already struggling with the Delta variant.

Any potential disruption in the business operations is likely to erase the cumulative recovery realised so far in the present calendar year. As far as the markets are concerned, the domestic benchmark index FTSE 100 was adequately poised to register fresh multi-month highs until the third week of November. The situation has categorically upended with the focus shifting on the upcoming developments with regard to the spread of Omicron variant, the fatalities linked to it and the rate of hospitalisation.

New Luton businesses to be provided support through council grant scheme

A new grant and support scheme designed to help newly trading Luton businesses is being launched with Luton Council’s allocation of Additional Restrictions Grant funding.

Under the Start-up Businesses Support programme Luton Council is offering grants of up to £2000 alongside training and specialist one-to-one support to local small and medium-sized enterprises and start-up businesses. The scheme, running until the end of January 2022, is designed to help local businesses overcome the effects of multiple lockdowns and restrictions and into growth. 

The council is working in partnership with business support specialists, Smarter Society, which has previously worked with organisations including John Lewis Partnership and the NHS to provide the new mentoring programme. 

Nicola Monk, Corporate Director Inclusive Economy at Luton Council, said: “Luton has a vibrant and diverse business community, but like the rest of the country our local economy has been hit by the pandemic. Securing strong economic recovery is essential and is a central pillar of the Luton 2020 –2040 Vision to ensure that everyone in Luton has the opportunity to thrive.

As part of our response and our longer term plan to deliver an Inclusive Economy, we are using a proportion of our Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) funding to deliver a  range of business support activities with a variety of partners which best supports the businesses in our town. 

The Start-up Businesses Support programme has been designed to support those which have been through a challenging time recently and receiving an expert, external perspective through a mentorship programme will give businesses innovative, specialist and practical support at this crucial time.”

Start-up Businesses Support will be open to every trading business within Luton, offering grants of up to £2000, training and one-to-one mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs tailored to the needs of each business. The programme will initially have 120 places which are expected to be taken quickly, so businesses should register immediately. 

Geoff Baxter, from Smarter Society, said: “We know that grants and one-to-one mentoring are the most requested business support service from local authorities – and can also be the most useful, so we’re glad to support the programme with experienced mentors that have run their own businesses and can provide practical guidance and help, all totally free of charge.”

For further information or to sign up to the programme visit:

https://smartersociety.org/programmes/luton/