Thu 22 / 07 / 21
Covid Business City-briefing
How is Covid currently impacting Brighton and Hove? How is our city responding to the increase in Covid cases, and what support is available for local businesses? The Covid Business City-briefing on 20 July brought together five panelists working across different sectors and authorities locally to discuss this and more.
By Hannah Jackson of Brighton Chamber
As we move into stage 4 of the government’s roadmap, there is still a need to work together, to keep Brighton and Hove, our businesses and our employees working safely.
We heard from five panelists, working across different sectors and authorities locally, who discussed how Covid is currently impacting the city and compares with the national picture, how Brighton is responding to the increase in cases, and what support available for businesses.
Here are some of the key takeaways and information shared:
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty
Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council, Phélim Mac Cafferty paid tribute to the brilliant businesses that we have across our city. The Council want to continue to help and support businesses to survive, and financial support is available for those who are self-isolating. There will also be the introduction soon of a locally managed track and trace system.
Councillor Mac Cafferty also discussed the continued improvements to the look and feel of the city, although acknowledging the challenges that come with this – over this past weekend alone, the council cleared up the largest amount of litter ever collected.
Dr Katie Cuming
A consultant in Public Health, Katie spoke about the sharp rise in Covid cases over the past 2-3 weeks since early June, with Brighton’s infection rate at 473 per 100,000 cases. With, on average, 177 cases per day, Brighton and Hove are in the top 20-30% of local authorities nationally.
The 15-29 year-old age group is seeing the highest case rate at 906.9 cases per 100,000 with case numbers also rising in the 30-39 and 40-49 age groups.
Katie noted that the rise in cases for those aged 15-29 can be attributed to Brighton and Hove’s predominantly younger population, plus our big hospitality and visitor economy.
The latest vaccination data shows that only 1 in 2 adults have been fully vaccinated, and businesses should continue to support staff in getting their vaccination and continuing to stay safe in the workplace.
For help keeping your staff safe at work, find PHE guidance for businesses working safely during Coronavirus: guidance from Step 4 Guidance here. You can also find a Covid-19 vaccination guide for employers here.
Director for Economy Environment and Culture at Brighton & Hove City Council, Nick Hibberd discussed the topic of how we can open the city safely.
The Council have focused on supporting businesses throughout the pandemic, and a huge amount of money has passed through the council to local businesses.
Working in partnerships has also continued, with a record Fringe festival taking place this summer, and more events planned – plus the opening of venues and sites across the city, including Shelter Hall, Plus X and the Valley Gardens Scheme.
Nick talked about the dichotomy that entering stage 4 presents, needing to continue with Covid safety measures and find the right balance for businesses. With government guidelines no longer mandatory, Brighton & Hove City Council wants to encourage businesses to continue with infection control measures, to keep staff safe and make Brighton a safe place to visit.
He’ll be reviewing the Customer Confidence Scheme, with more information to follow, and he’d like to hear feedback from businesses.
Managing Director of Brighton & Hove Buses, Martin discussed how the organisation is operating safely across the city. He highlighted the helpful collaboration with Brighton & Hove City Council to support services, and the financial support made available from national government support for public transport organisations.
Brighton & Hove Buses operated one of the first vaccine buses, helping people get vaccinated in hard-to-reach areas.
90% of people saying that they are satisfied with public transport during Covid, in the short term the Bus Co wants passengers to see as little change as possible to what they were experiencing before stage 4. They will still be asking passengers to wear face masks, and continuing to implement measures such as: keeping all windows open on buses, using air filters and eliminating cash payments.
Looking forward, they are preparing for more flexible commuter journeys and pricing to reflect the change in working and leisure patterns.
Did Covid accelerate the changes in the retail market? From Mark’s perspective as Centre Director at Churchill Square, these changes were already happening. However, with this have we lost a lot of shops across all towns in the county? Brighton is still the first choice for national and international retailers in the South-East, and our vacancy rates in the city are below the national average. Retailers continue to want physical stores to support online growth, and we’ve had good demand for space in the city. Footfall and like-for-like sales have been very resilient this year so far, and Churchill Square continued to out-perform the sector nationwide.
Landlords and retailers are now more using flexible terms to reflect market changes, making for better partnerships with retailers.
However, with the Delta variant, more retailers are having to close due to teams isolating, and subsequently having to reopen with non-Brighton teams.
So, whilst Covid Secure is no longer law, it is clear from the consumer research Churchill Square has completed that customers need to feel safe.
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty closed the City-briefing, again thanking the fantastic local business community in our city, looking forwards to possible future briefings to help local businesses understand what the impact of Covid is on our city, and what help and support they can find.
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