Sara’s Blog: 2021 and all that…

I remember so many people this time last year saying that they would be glad to see the back of 2020. It had been an awful year, and totally unexpected as the champagne corks popped at the start of the year.

No one would have predicted that twelve months on we would be facing rising infection rates, confusion over measures to control the spread of a new variant of the virus and a government seemingly unable to make decisions on how far to go with imposing restrictions, causing anxiety and uncertainty to business and the wider economy.

Of course, we have most of the population vaccinated and booster vaccination numbers of close to a million a day should ensure we are achieving the target of giving greater protection to everyone that wants it by the end of December.

However, there is no confirmation from the Treasury that comprehensive financial support measures will again be rolled out to business. The hospitality and retail sectors are already taking a hit as people err on the side of caution, Christmas parties are cancelled, and many stay away from the high street.

Throughout the pandemic the Chamber movement has driven the Government hard on clarity over support measures and by and large, measures up to the Autumn of 2021 have saved businesses from going under whilst protecting millions of jobs and the self-employed.

Putting business first, protecting jobs and growing our economy is the priority of Staffordshire Chambers and we will again be adding our support to the lobbying activity of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) to ensure the Government does everything possible to support business.

Being an eternal optimist, I always believe great things happen in times of adversity and looking back, 2021 has contained much to make us all very proud.
Many businesses and individuals have again demonstrated resilience, innovation, and generosity in getting on with the job, adapting to changing market conditions and finding the time to provide support to other businesses and their community.

Our business helpline has never been busier with over 10,000 calls throughout the year, helping with enquiries on many issues including finance, employment issues, skills, marketing, and exporting.

We have delivered a programme of almost 300 events including webinars, sector specific forums, and networking events.

In the last quarter we were able to stage our Business Festival, with a mix of online and live events, the Let’s Do Business Exhibition and our annual Staffordshire Business Awards, both at Uttoxeter Racecourse.

In November we welcomed our new Staffordshire Chambers President, Kate Beardmore. Kate is the second female Chamber President and at 33, the youngest ever. I’m as excited about working with Kate in the next two years as she is about working with everyone in the wider Chambers community.

Kate has so much business ability, enthusiasm and a great sense of humour and she will be attending lots of events so she can meet members and get your views on what we can do to make Staffordshire better and stronger together.

Kate will be ably assisted by Martin Lennon and Rachel Buxton, the new Presidents for Stafford, and Staffordshire Moorlands.

The highlight of my year, and probably my career was Staffordshire Chambers winning ‘Chamber of the Year’ at the Business Awards, hosted by the British Chambers of Commerce earlier this month.

I have already spoken at length about this at length (see my blog of 10th December) and we certainly won’t be slowing down to bask in the glory.

I am expecting that the first couple of months of 2022 will be as confused and difficult to navigate as the last few weeks have been too. So please do everything to keep you and your families safe.

We will be closing at 5pm on 23rd December and will reopen on 4th January 2022.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, including funding, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

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