A message from our Chief Executive, Ruth Duston OBE, OC
The COVID-19 national emergency is a rapidly changing crisis impacting all our lives. In a little over a week we have moved from a largely ‘business as usual’ strategy being adopted by the Government to now, waking up as a society living under the strictest restrictions on our personal liberties since the second world war…and there may still be more to come.
It’s seems hard to
overstate how huge an impact these changes will have on our country, our
businesses, families and loved ones.
The recent economic
support packages announced by the Government indicated the scale of the
emergency being faced due to COVID-19. Our politicians are increasingly talking
of being on a war footing, not only to fight the deadly virus but to help everyone
survive these extraordinary times.
Through my BIDs and
partnerships across London I represent thousands of businesses, large and small
across numerous sectors. No one is untouched by this crisis. Of course I
welcome the economic support being offered – the £330 billion initial package
announced by the Chancellor last week is significant (it equates 15% of our
economy) but there is no sugar-coating this….many businesses will suffer,
some will go under and very many jobs will be lost.
So in these deeply
challenging times, as business leaders, what can we do and where can we find
I strongly believe
that evoking the ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ of the 1940s is not just a nostalgic comfort
blanket, it is going to be the key to us all getting through this.
We must pull
together and think creatively. They say necessity is the mother of invention,
and I am seeing this is absolutely the case in our dealings with our business
communities in recent days.
Many have moved
quickly to provide enhanced online offerings and we are proudly supporting
these endeavours. Our work to support local businesses, employees and our wider
community need not cease – we just need to adapt to changing circumstances. In
business as usual times, BIDs and business partnerships are playing an
increasingly vital role supporting businesses, promoting growth and working
with partners to create vibrant, thriving places. In times of crisis, our work
is arguably even more important.
I am working closely
with partners across London, including local authorities, the Met Police, MPs,
the GLA and many others to coordinate a response to support communities. Many
of you will know that I am a great believer in partnership and believe the best
outcomes arise from collective action. This is so true in the current crisis –
we are all in this together.
But beyond this
vital day to day support, where is the hope, and how can we be constructive and
prepare well as this crisis evolves and ultimately, ends?
When the shock of
these latest restrictions eases and we settle into the new normal, we must seek
to learn from these experiences. Across industry we have talked a lot in recent
times about changing trends in the workplace and the move towards more flexible
and remote working. This is not the pilot we would have wished for, but we can
use this time to identify where our systems need improvement. Perhaps one of
the legacies of this emergency situation will be a new and innovate approach to
working practices? There are potentially significant benefits for peoples’
wellbeing, air quality and pressure on transport infrastructure. It may seem
incongruous to ponder these issues at the moment, but they are important and we
should seek to find the positives in these very dark days.
But crucially, we
must be working now for the recovery that is to come. Our business communities
will need significant support when business starts to get back to normal,
whenever this may be.
BIDs and business
partnerships are well placed to take a lead role in the campaign to support
London’s recovery, working with partners to help stimulate growth, boost
confidence and provide vital guidance and advice. Funds that would have been
invested in events and programmes in the immediate months have already been
held back and these will be ready to invest in a campaign to kick start the
We stand ready to
continue to be a great source of stability and
continuity. Custodians, a steady helping hand, a protector, an
advocate and cheer-leader…BIDs have many roles and we carry each out with
commitment and a passion for supporting enterprise and knowing that together we
can be stronger.
Now we must prepare to take on the role of our lives.