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The Director's Take - 16 September 2020
Posted on: September 17th 2020

Julie Hawker is joint chief executive of Cosmic, an ethical IT business based in Honiton. Julie has been a board director of Exeter Chamber since 2017 and holds a number of other high level positions across the region including being a board member of South West Business Council and a trustee of Devon Air Ambulance.

Julie said:

“We anticipate a huge amount of important information being released over the coming months and understanding it, and how it will impact on our businesses has never been more important.  In these briefings we will give you our take on each story.  Sometimes these briefings will include a position or viewpoint that is personal, but we will always try to represent the voice of business across Greater Exeter.  We welcome your feedback on this, so we can understand the impact on your business and sector and better represent all businesses in Exeter and the surrounding region.”

So, our top stories for this week:

Brexit bill

With Brexit once again dominating the news this weekend, we hope that the country’s MPs and politicians are firmly focused on the implications for business.  From our perspective uncertainty is the biggest threat to business planning.  You can sign up to HMRC for regular updates, advice and guidance to help you prepare for the end of the transition process here

Calls to extend furlough scheme

With calls from the TUC for Rishi Sunak to extend the furlough scheme beyond the current cut off point at the end of October, figures from HMRC show that since April, 9.6 million jobs have been furloughed, with accommodation and food services sectors seeing the highest percentage of furloughed employers at 77% and wholesale and retail the largest number at 1.9 million.  Given that these sectors are so important to the Westcountry’s economy , Exeter Chamber is particularly keen to see further help for these businesses.  Further data will be published by HMRC on take up of the furlough scheme later this week.

Business Bounce Back Survey highlights impact of COVID-19 on Businesses

Working with county-wide partners including Devon County Council, Exeter City Council, FSB, InExeter and Visit Exeter, Exeter Chamber’s recent survey sought to take a measure of businesses needs in the recovery and rebuild from COVID-19.   

Findings included:

  • 78% indicated that a decline in customers and income had made the most significant impact on their business
  • 70% businesses identified attracting and finding new customers as a key challenge
  • Marketing and finance support and advice is crucial to businesses moving forward

Businesses responses invariably put their customers at the centre of recovery – with access to customers and building new audiences as their key priority.  A third of businesses also rated financial advice and support as extremely important. Around one fifth of respondents required sales support, operations advice and staff training, while access to expertise in HR, property, leadership and sustainability was identified by one in six.

Businesses answers will help the survey partners work together to build a jigsaw of support and services across Greater Exeter to facilitate recovery.

Julie Hawker, board director of Exeter Chamber and joint chief executive of digital specialist Cosmic,  said; “2020 has been a year like no other and as a business organisation we want to be able to support our members as well as the Greater Exeter area with our services. As well as Exeter Chamber, all partners involved in the survey have pledged to support businesses regarding their long and short term barriers. We are now working to use the results from the survey to further plan and shape our services and continue to support businesses through these uncertain times.”

Kickstart Employment Scheme

A reminder to let us know if you would like to offer placements under the Kickstart Employment Scheme, where government will cover wages for six month placements offered to 16-24 year olds currently claiming Universal Credit.  A further £1,500 will be offered to employers to help with additional costs of employment.  At the moment businesses with less than 30 placements on offer are being asked to make a joint bid to the scheme.  With Exeter City Council and InExeter we are co-ordinating this.  We currently have 20 expressions of interest – email to add your business to the list.

For more information on any of these stories email your query to and we will put you in touch with the relevant person / organisation

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