IW Chamber – Your business voice in the Coronavirus crisis
By IW Chamber Chief Executive Steven Holbrook

The Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce has always been the voice of Island businesses, representing hundreds of member businesses and in turn, many thousands of employees. Your Chamber has taken the lead in providing an essential connection between businesses and the government during the economic emergency wrought by the Coronavirus pandemic.

I am speaking with the Island’s MP Bob Seely on a daily basis, passing on all of the concerns shared with me by members. This new working partnership has also included conference calls with the local authority and many Island businesses who have been able to provide first-hand evidence of problems that our MP has subsequently been able to raise directly at Westminster.

At the Chamber we welcome the government’s package of support for business, including the remarkable grants to cover 80% of the salary of retained workers, up to a total of £2,500 a month.  The deferral of VAT payments will also help businesses to continue to pay their people and suppliers. These measures must also be supported by the detail and the full information to allow businesses to take informed decisions. The support from government will give many Island businesses some breathing space but the measures may not go far enough and the hospitality and tourism sectors will potentially suffer the most from the enforced shutdown.

We must support local businesses as much as possible and our challenge is to find creative ways in which we can do so. The clock is ticking and many businesses will be forced to move quickly into decisions on how to sustain operations long term. Cash flow is crucial at this time and for some businesses a period of “hibernation” may be the only way forward to protect their livelihoods in the long term. Continuing to trade and keeping people in work as much as possible are essential for our economy. Business must continue as much as possible and we are all being forced to be more agile, embracing flexible working and where possible, working remotely.

We are living in unprecedented times and membership of the Chamber has never been so vital or valuable. Businesses who are IW Chamber members have unlimited access to five business advice lines, providing free round-the-clock Legal, Financial and HR support and guidance. Members are also protected by £1m of excess-free legal expenses business insurance.

I would urge every member to make the most of the services included as part of their membership and I hope we will continue to count them as members in future years. I would also urge members to encourage non-member businesses to join the Isle of Wight Chamber, to protect themselves in the difficult times we all face. Our membership team is here to support you, for member businesses of all ages.

We don’t know how long this pandemic will last. The Coronavirus and our response to it look set to alter the way we live and work for many months and years to come.  As employers we carry a responsibility to our staff. Their safety, health and well-being are the priority. We must all follow the relevant advice and take care of ourselves and others.

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