Sara’s Blog: We are officially the top UK Chamber and new Covid restrictions

We did it! Last night we were named as ‘Chamber of the Year’ at the Business Awards, hosted by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

We have got as far as finalists before but to come away as overall winners out of the 53 accredited chambers in the UK is just the best feeling.

The ceremony, which would normally take place at a prestigious venue in London, took place online at 4pm. Myself and many of the Chambers team watched it live in Commerce House and we almost took the roof off when the results were announced.

The award, sponsored by Quest, recognises our work throughout the pandemic and the way we responded to changing circumstances as uncertainty reigned and Government guidelines dictated a new way of working.

Whether we won the award or not I have been so proud of everyone involved with the Chamber and the way we have all pulled together, remained confident and innovated in time of crisis.

By everyone, I mean the Chambers team, our members and patrons, our delivery partners and all the individuals who give up so much of their time as members of our boards and council, sector forums and all the mentors who sprang into action to help businesses through the worst economic upheaval in a generation.

I am also immensely proud of Woolcool and the Efficiency Group, two Staffordshire businesses who were West Midlands regional winners, shortlisted for the awards.

Woolcool were finalists for the ‘Planet Saver’ – Green Business of the Year Award whilst The Efficiency Group are finalists for the ‘Game Changer’ – Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

And after such a wonderful accolade, it’s back to business…..

New Covid restrictions
We have been calling on the UK Government for several months to set out what contingency plans for business would look like if further restrictions were needed this winter. Yet again, firms are now being asked to make changes at the very last minute. Restrictions will also impact on consumer behaviour with knock-on effects which could risk the fragile recovery, order books and revenues.

Many businesses have only just begun to get back on their feet and this move will inevitably damage business confidence. Critically, firms need to know that the Government will support them through this next period.

The Government must once again stand shoulder to shoulder with business and provide a package of support to ensure that we get through a challenging winter without serious damage to our economic recovery.

On work from home
A return to advice that staff should work from home ‘where they can’ will come at a huge cost to many businesses.

While many firms now have well established remote or hybrid working practices, which will provide some resilience, there will be many more that will be badly affected by reduced footfall in towns and city centres.

This will impact on business revenues at a time when many needed to have a prosperous festive season. We need to have grant support in place for all firms affected and their supply chains.

On Covid passports
We need to see full details from Government of how businesses will be expected to implement this policy.

Businesses have said repeatedly that this could prove difficult to implement and police effectively without comprehensive support and clear guidance. The full backing of Government and authorities is needed in enforcing this policy which can often put staff at risk of harassment or even violence.

In addition, they will need to understand urgently where legal responsibility for compliance with the policy sits. Businesses will have a strong preference for legal responsibility to sit with individuals to comply, as it does with facemasks.

On self-isolation changes
The government has said it intends to allow contacts of confirmed Omicron cases to do daily Covid tests instead of self-isolating. This will give businesses providing critical services a chance to maintain staff levels at a time when these are already strained by labour shortages and will help to avoid another ‘pingdemic’.”

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:

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