County Council approves business case for £300m plan for economic recovery
“Companies have had to be very adaptable to get through the last year and it is great to see Warwickshire County Council showing similar innovation in the way it is offering support to the area’s business"
Local business leaders have heralded Warwickshire County Council’s plans to aid economic recovery with an investment of £300m as a 'highly significant’ measure for the county’s economy.
Warwickshire County Council plans to create a £140m fund to stimulate the county’s economy, create jobs, support local businesses and bring investment into the county with a further £160m investment in new housing, regeneration and creation of business premises.
The overall £300m investment is a fundamental part of the Council’s Covid-19 Recovery Plan, and is expected to create over 3,000 jobs and safeguard many thousands more. It will drive recovery and regeneration while at the same time supporting the Council’s medium-term financial resilience.
The Warwickshire Recovery Investment Fund (WRIF) aims to allocate £140m over the next five years, offering loans and other financial investments to existing and new Warwickshire businesses to help their long-term recovery and growth, create and safeguard jobs, and attract new inward investment into the county. The Fund will be open to the first applications later in 2021 and will start engaging with potential businesses over the summer.
Drawing on analysis, the Council expects that unemployment could rise from 7,000 at the start of 2020 to over 30,000 by the time the effects of the third national lockdown are fully felt. The GVA of the county – its economic output - is also predicted to fall sharply as a result of the second wave and further period of lockdown.
The council’s investment is designed to help arrest the downward trend and drive growth and recovery of the county’s previously strong economy. It is anticipated that that the WRIF will also unlock and bring in around £100m of additional private sector investment and, through improved growth and productivity, create an increase in the County’s GVA of up to four times its initial investment.
The WRIF will initially be funded by the County Council’s short-term cash surpluses and borrowing, and will be recovered over time through the repayment of loans and other financial products.
The Warwickshire Property and Development Company (WPDC) will be launched later this year. The company will deliver new affordable and market priced homes and a range of commercial and mixed-use properties using the Council’s existing land and property assets to drive growth and regeneration. These are supported by plans for renewable energy opportunities across the county.
Nick Abell, Chair of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is a highly significant level of funding across five years which will go to help companies across the county recover from the most drastic economic downturn of our generation.
“Companies have had to be very adaptable to get through the last year and it is great to see Warwickshire County Council showing similar innovation in the way it is offering support to the area’s business in what will be a key period of recovery as, hopefully, we start to return to more normal times.
“Local authorities across Coventry and Warwickshire responded very swiftly to help business when the severity of the pandemic began to impact and this is another major measure which aids our recovery as a region.”
Louise Bennett, Chief Executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: "For the past 12 months, the focus has been on businesses surviving the Covid-19 crisis and that is, naturally, where national and regional support has been targeted.
"It's great to see Warwickshire County Council recognising that firms across the county are going to need help to aid their medium-term recovery and future growth and we very much welcome this new fund.”
Further updates on the scheme will be announced by the county council on its economic recovery pages at https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/wrif and in future editions of Warwickshire Still Means Business.
What the Spring Budget means for Warwickshire businesses...
The March 2021 Budget arrived at a uniquely turbulent time for the country's business community - amid extensive economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and following the UK’s exit from the European Union on January 1.
The budget attached some focus to helping businesses through the pandemic and supporting the UK's long-term economic recovery. Sunny Parekh, senior economist at Warwickshire County Council, studied every one of its 40,000 words and sifted out the info most pertinent to businesses in our county.
The Budget on March 3 was delivered after one of the most challenging year for businesses on record.
In 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent restrictions, the UK economy shrank by 10% the biggest fall since 1709. However, the Office of Budget Responsibility predicts that the economy will rebound in 2021, with projected annual growth of 4% this year as the mass rollout of the vaccine allows restrictions to be eased.
The UK economy is forecasted to return to pre-pandemic levels by middle of 2022, with growth of 7.3% next year. Unemployment is expected to peak at 6.5% next year, lower than 11.9% previously predicted
However, much work remains ahead to build the recovery. Locally, Warwickshire County Council plans to create a £140m fund to stimulate the county’s economy. This will create jobs, support local businesses and bring investment into the county with a further £160m investment in new housing, regeneration and creation of business premises.
Businesses in Warwickshire have shown amazing resilience, adaptability and enterprise amidst this very tough climate - and the budget included measures from Central Government designed to help them stabilise and grow again in 2021.
Key announcements from the budget that will impact upon Warwickshire’s local businesses & economic landscape are:
- £5bn restart grant fund for businesses to help companies get going after lockdown.
- Total direct cash support to businesses has reached £25bn.
- Government-backed bounce back loan (BBL) and coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS) will end, but the Treasury will launch a new loan scheme to run until the end of the year. Loans can be between £25,000 and £10m.
- Hospitality and leisure businesses will pay no business rates for three months, then rates will be discounted for the remaining nine months of the year by two-thirds, in a £6bn tax cut.
- The 5% reduced rate of VAT will be extended until the end of September. Then it will be gradually increased, at 12.5% for six months, before returning to the standard rate from April 2022.
- £6,000 per premises for non-essential retail outlets due to re-open in April and £18,000 for gyms, personal care providers and other hospitality and leisure businesses
- Contactless payment limit will rise to £100 later this year
- Tax breaks for firms to "unlock" £20bn worth of business investment
- New visa scheme to help start-ups and rapidly growing tech firms source talent from overseas
- Furlough to be extended until the end of September 2021
- Government to continue paying 80% of employees' wages for hours they cannot work
- Employers to be asked to contribute 10% in July and 20% in August and September
- Support for the self-employed also to be extended until September
- 600,000 more self-employed people will be eligible for help as access to grants is widened
- £20 uplift in Universal Credit, worth £1,000 a year, to be extended for another six months
- Working Tax Credit claimants will get a £500 one-off payment
- The minimum wage to increase to £8.91 an hour from April
- Corporation tax on company profits to rise from 19% to 25% in April 2023
- Personal income tax allowance to be frozen at £12,570 from April 2022 to 2026
- Higher rate income tax threshold to be frozen at £50,270 from 2022 to 2026
- Rate to be kept at 19% for about 1.5 million smaller companies with profits of less than £50,000
Environment, transport, infrastructure and housing
- £15bn in green bonds, including for retail investors, to help finance the transition to net zero by 2050
- Stamp duty holiday on house purchases in England and Northern Ireland extended to June, with no tax liability on sales of less than £500,000
Nations and regions
- £1bn Towns Fund to promote regeneration in 45 English towns (including Nuneaton).
- £150m for community groups to take over pubs at risk of closure
(Sources, Office of Budget Responsibility, BBC News and The Guardian)
Webinars to support businesses along Roadmap out of Lockdown
A series of ‘Roadmap out of Lockdown’ advice webinars will give businesses the information they need as they prepare to reopen after lockdown.
Warwickshire County Council, working with its district and borough council partners, and Warwickshire Police and Warwickshire Fire and Rescue, will be putting forward the webinars, following the Government announcement of the four-step roadmap to cautiously ease lockdown restrictions in England.
The webinars will be sector-themed and timed to coincide in the run up to the next three key roadmap dates, which will see a gradual relaxation of the current lockdown measures. The first of these saw schools reopen on March 8th.
From March 29th, outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, will be allowed to reopen, and people can take part in formally organised outdoor sports. In advance of this milestone, the first webinar took place on March 23rd, at 5pm, and presented key learning from the latest lockdown and advice on keeping players, coaches and spectators safe, to an audience of over 60 reps from local sports organisations.
This will be followed by further webinars in the run up to the re-opening of Personal Care services such as hairdressers and nail salons, hospitality with outdoor facilities and non-essential retail, on 12th April. Then a final run of webinars will support the planned full re-opening of Hospitality and Leisure on May 17th.
The roadmap, which is published on gov.uk, outlines four steps for easing restrictions. Before proceeding to the next step, the Government will examine the data to assess the impact of previous steps, but all going well the lockdown easing will follow these key dates. Businesses interested in taking part will not need to pre-register, but can just click on the links below at the relevant times to join the webinars.
The webinars will be recorded and made available to view via the Warwickshire County Council YouTube channel.
This work is part of a range of business support provided to business by Warwickshire County Council during the pandemic crisis. This includes a £6million package of funding earmarked by Warwickshire County Council to support the immediate economic recovery in the county, and complements the recently announced joint initiative with Coventry and Solihull councils to promote the COVID Secure Business Pledge.
These webinars form part of the information support to businesses in Warwickshire as we follow the Government roadmap put of lockdown. Details of further webinars focused on staff needs offering advice on welcoming workforces back from home-working and furlough/safe-reopening of businesses over the coming weeks under the title ‘Build Back Stronger’ can be found here.
‘Roadmap out of Lockdown’ Advice Webinars:
April 6th, 11am: Personal Care Sector (Warwickshire North) – hair and beauty, etc. Best advice and where to get support from.
April 7th, 11am: Hospitality Sector providing outdoor facilities
April 7th, 1pm: Personal Care Sector (Warwickshire South) – hair and beauty, etc. Best advice and where to get support from.
April 8th, 11am: Non Essential Retail. Practical advice and guidance for the safe re-opening of non-essential retail.
April 8th, 5pm: Safe Re-opening of Community Buildings. Update on key public health information along with current legislation and ideas and suggestions to help you open safely and share ideas and best practice from other similar venues.
May 4th, 2pm: Hospitality and Leisure (Warwickshire North). Theatres, cinemas, Concert halls music venues; Hotel and accommodation sector – including how to manage books and cancellations, LFT testing and vaccination checks
May 5th, 11am: Hospitality and Leisure (Rugby). Theatres, cinemas, Concert halls music venues; Hotel and accommodation sector – including how to manage books and cancellations, LFT testing and vaccination checks
May 11th, 2pm: Hospitality and Leisure (Warwickshire South). Theatres, cinemas, Concert halls music venues; Hotel and accommodation sector – including how to manage books and cancellations, LFT testing and vaccination checks.
Inclusive Apprenticeships launch event is a great success
"We are certainly going to look at how we can support this and really hope other businesses do too - why wouldn't you want a workforce which is so dedicated and keen to learn?"
Warwickshire County Council's Inclusive Apprenticeships programme was launched at an online event which attracted more than 40 delegates from different sectors.
At a time when many businesses are affected by serious skills shortages, the Inclusive Apprenticeship programme is providing an opportunity for employers to recruit talented young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
To find out how recruiting a young person with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), could benefit your business and how you can get involved, take a look at a recording of a session held for local employers earlier this month.
This online launch drew more than 40 people from a variety of sectors, all keen to explore how they could consider shaping suitable apprenticeship roles in their business, for young people with SEND. Many mentioned in the chat section of the webinar, how they were blown away by the testimony of Taurai, a young man with SEND, who spoke so openly and bravely about his journey.
Mark Maffey, Business Development Manager at Hereward College for young people with SEND said: “This event was hugely informative and ambitious. Many of our students are looking for employment and training opportunities after lockdown, so the timing of the Inclusive Apprenticeships launch was ideal.
"The input from such an inspiring group of experts will help us to identify vacancies and map a clear progression route for our Warwickshire learners.”
Among those listening to that input was Karl Babington, managing director of Auto Craft Engineering (UK) Ltd.
He said: "My business, and the manufacturing sector broadly, relies on apprentices coming through local courses and it's been a great way over the years to recruit new talent as we have grown. Inclusive Apprenticeships was a completely new concept to us, so we joined the WCC event out of pure curiosity.
"We were really surprised to hear so many young people with special needs and disabilities are being overlooked by businesses when recruiting. During the event we were blown away to hear some of the challenges that Taurai faced and the sheer determination he had to make something of himself and ensure any business could see what strengths he had to offer.
"It was good to hear of the everything available to businesses, both financial and in terms of partnership support. We are certainly going to look at how we can support this and really hope other businesses do too - why wouldn't you want a workforce which is so dedicated and keen to learn?"
The Inclusive Apprenticeship programme is a pilot scheme, initially supporting cohorts of young people into customer service apprenticeship roles, but with the range of roles being broadened in the coming months.
Employers are being asked to consider how a talented young person with SEND could enhance their business.
The County Council is working with MENCAP and DFN Project Search - a transition-to-work programme, committed to transforming the lives of young people with learning disabilities and autism.
MENCAP has a dedicated employer engagement team to assist employers with any queries they may have around taking on young people with SEND. The programme also offers a dedicated job coach to work alongside each apprentice, supporting them until they are established in their role, and are confident to work independently.
The Inclusive Apprenticeships scheme adds to the work already ongoing locally to support young people with SEND. In 2019, the Supportive Employer forum was created by Warwickshire County Council and a range of partners to provide internships and work experience with businesses for learners at Warwickshire’s special schools and colleges.
Warwickshire County Council assistant director for communities Dave Ayton-Hill said: "We are delighted with the response from local businesses to our webinar, but we hope more employers will think about how a talented young person with SEND could benefit their company.
"At a time when businesses in a number of sectors are affected by serious skills shortages, the Inclusive Apprenticeship programme is a great opportunity for them to recruit young people with the potential and passion to learn.”
To find out more, please contact the Warwickshire Skills Hub Team: email@example.com
Cricket club moving "home" in to brand new space in Leamington
"1 Mill Street is a fantastic venue that will provide Club employees with excellent opportunities to connect with local businesses and entrepreneurs."
Warwickshire County Cricket Club has broadened its reach into the wider region by partnering with the innovative new co-working space, 1 Mill Street in Leamington Spa.
The cricket club, which was founded at The Regent Hotel in Leamington in 1882, before the development of its longstanding home at the iconic Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham, will use 1 Mill Street as office working and meeting space.
The Club will also work in partnership with the membership venue on staging events, including player and coaching forums as well as collaboration on media production using Mill Street’s broadcast studio.
Stuart Cain, Chief Executive at Warwickshire County Cricket Club, said: “We started a programme in 2019 to expand our reach and to develop more relationships with supporters and businesses across the county, and we see this partnership with 1 Mill Street as an important step towards this.
“1 Mill Street is a fantastic venue that will provide club employees with excellent opportunities to connect with local businesses and entrepreneurs. We are looking forward to working together on several events for its members.”
Located in the heart of Leamington Spa, 1 Mill Street offers stylish and flexible workspaces for entrepreneurs, creatives and businesses, with meetings rooms, a production suite and the popular Muse Coffee House. When restrictions permit, every Wednesday, the venue will make its studio and event spaces available to local charities and social enterprises.
Nigel Shanahan, founder of 1 Mill Street, said: “We are delighted to welcome Warwickshire County Cricket Club to Mill Street. Together with The Wasps we are partnering with Warwickshire’s finest Sports Clubs, and know the relationships will be amazing for our members."
Workshops to help businesses 'Build Back Stronger' after lockdown
A series of five themed workshops devised by Warwickshire Skills Hub will help employers to 'Build Back Stronger' and support them in welcoming their workforces back as pandemic restrictions ease.
Employers and employees alike will face unique challenges in the coming months as workplaces open up again and many people return to them having spent months working from home or on furlough.
This will bring further demands, both logistical and psychological, upon businesses and workers which have had to adapt, and adapt again, to the restrictions imposed over the last year.
So the Build Back Stronger campaign has been developed by Warwickshire Skills Hub to provide a series of free workshops, starting on April 15th, to support employers in bringing their workforce back from home working and furlough.
The workshops will be delivered by a mixture of internal and external partners to ensure that they cover all aspects of the needs of businesses.
Workshop 1: Workforce Build Back - 12noon Thursday April 15th
Focus on workplace wellbeing and mental health with details of Warwickshire County Council's Employee Assistance Programme.
Workshop 2: Workforce Build Back
Focus on preparing for the return of the workforce with guidance on support with anxiety and bereavement and also flexible working and advice on new skills for a changing workplace.
Workshop 3: Workforce reshaping
Focus on upskilling with details of the wide range of support available...Warwickshire Small Business Programme, the Apprenticeship Progression Programme, Skills 4 Growth and other skill support for the workforce
Workshop 4: Redundancy Support
Focus on available support for businesses facing workforce redundancies, including the Warwickshire Redundancy Support Programme.
Workshop 5: Future Talent
Focus on Skills Planning. How employers can grow their workforce's skills by using available talent pools, apprenticeships, inclusive apprenticeships, disabilities & graduate programmes.
Vicki Haslam, Senior Business Skills Advisor at Warwickshire Skills Hub, said: "Employers are now facing challenges they have never faced before and it is vital that they have maximum support to help them 'Build Back Stronger' as businesses.
"These workshops are designed to consider all the issues that employees will face in the weeks and months ahead and help then to be well-prepared as can be and aware of all the support that is available to them from Warwickshire County Council and our partners."
To register for the first free workshop on April 1 please visit here. For further information, including details on the other workshops when they are finalised, will be available from skillshub.warwickshire.gov.uk
These workshops form part of the information support to businesses in Warwickshire as we follow the Government roadmap put of lockdown. Details of a series of further ‘Roadmap Re-opening’ advice webinars, which will give businesses the information they need as they prepare to reopen after lockdown, can be found here.
Bright future for Bright Vision following SSG programme expert input
"With the help of WCC through its Survive, Sustain and Grow programme we can now improve the quality of our on-site and studio equipment to deliver these virtual and hybrid events to a highly professional level"
A corporate events company which lost its income streams overnight when the first lockdown hit, last spring, has adapted adroitly to face a new future with expert advice from a business support programme.
Bright Vision Events, which specialises in conference production and team building, engaged with the Warwickshire County Council's Survive, Sustain and Grow programme as it planned how to bounce back from a devastating year.
In March 2020, Covid-19 came as a hammer blow to the business, based in Fenny Compton, which lost over six months of contracted events within three weeks. The pipeline of events dried up and the phone stopped ringing as the industry went into hibernation.
Alison Marshall and her fellow directors at Bright Vision had some tough decisions to make. Did they ‘mothball’ the company and sit it out or make changes and devise a new strategy going forward? Like so many resilient Warwickshire businesses, they chose the latter.
Within months they had launched their own streaming platform, Bright Vision Events Live, and by the autumn were streaming live conferences around the world. The team building challenges underwent a similar renaissance and assumed a virtual format that hosts over commonly used platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
Bright Vision Events pivoted quickly to advance a long way in a short time, but then needed some advice to progress to the next stage. To compete with larger event companies, the business needed to enhance the quality of their digital events and, without further investment, simply would not win the work necessary to compete in the new digital events world.
So they approached Warwickshire County Council and were offered bespoke advice through their Survive, Sustain and Grow programme. SSG specialist consultant Andy Woodward identified the need for funding for the new equipment necessary for the company to implement its next stage of growth. The business was then delighted when their application for grant support was successful.
“With the help of WCC through its Survive, Sustain and Grow we can now improve the quality of our on-site and studio equipment to deliver these virtual and hybrid events to a highly professional level," said Alison Marshall. "This will enhance our reputation as a first-class events company and provide us with the opportunity to grow as a business in the next few years.”
WCC's SSG Specialist consultant Andy Woodward said: "It was pleasing to engage with Bright Vision and support the business in a way which will enable it to help build on its client base and recruit locally. It is a high quality Warwickshire business at a point where, to maintain its new found position in the UK virtual events industry, it now needs to invest in the latest technology to help accelerate its growth."
SSG Lead Consultant Jagdish Soor commented: "The future for the events industry beyond the pandemic is looking very different and also very exciting. Events will be more inclusive by becoming hybrids where both, in person and virtual attendees are able to access every event, be it a conference, team build or training event. With our support, Bright Vision are well-equipped to thrive in that new world."
Opportunity knocks to take on the "real privilege" of heading up WCC's business centres
"Now is the right time for me to move on - and that means there is a fantastic opportunity for someone else to come in and make their mark..."
Duncan Haldane is leaving his role as Warwickshire County Council's Delivery Manager for Business Centres after 12 years in the job.
Duncan is leaving to pursue other interests but reflects upon his time in the role as "a real privilege" - and says that a wonderful opportunity awaits his successor.
WCC is now hunting that successor who will take a proactive strategic and operational role in the management and ongoing development of the 260 business units across the eight sites run by the county council throughout Warwickshire.
"Working with businesses and seeing them develop, first from ideas to business plans and then to successful and expanding enterprises over the past 12 years, has been a real privilege and immensely rewarding," Duncan said.
"Having started and run my own business in the past, I know all too well the ups, downs and challenges that face any business owner. I think that being able to fully empathise and understand the real issues has made it easier to engage and hopefully offer practical advice and support where appropriate.
"I have loved my time working with the businesses and the great teams at our business centres, but now is the right time for me to move on - and that means there is a fantastic opportunity for someone else to come in and make their mark.
"It will be someone who has strong commercial and strategic skills, together with an understanding of the importance of supporting small businesses within Warwickshire and their contribution to the economic growth of the region.
"If you like being busy, with never a dull moment, and you relish the opportunity to work closely with small businesses, while developing and delivering commercial opportunities, all under the umbrella of an outstanding customer care philosophy, this could be the role for you."
For more information and to apply on line, please go to: www.warwickshire.gov.uk/jobs and enter ‘Delivery Manager’ in the Job Title search box.
Active Mobility upwardly mobile after Retail & Hospitality Grant
"Within a couple of days of the new website launching we had started picked up new customers which was fantastic. We are so grateful to the county council for their support.
A small business specialising in mobility products is already attracting new customers thanks to a new, more attractive website upgraded with the help of a Retail & Hospitality Grant from Warwickshire County Council.
Active Mobility, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, applied for support from the Retail and Hospitality Grant scheme, part of an initial £8 million package of funding earmarked by the County Council to support the immediate economic recovery in the county.
The rapid release of funding has made grants of between £2,000 and £7,500 available to provide long-lasting benefits for the businesses, their local communities and the local economy.
In the case of Active Mobility, the grant enabled the business to improve its service at a very important time to a client-base, many of whom are having to shield under restrictions caused by the pandemic.
"A lot of our customers are having to shield which means it is more important than ever that they can get all the information they need about our products online," said Active Mobility managing director Tracy Suther. "They can now do that after the grant enabled us to transform our website. Our old website was very developer-dependant but now we can organise it all ourselves and make changes instantly so that the information is always right up to date.
"The website is much cleaner, faster and more modern. It is divided into sections so that customers can search for exactly the product they want without having to look at things not relevant to them. We can also now take card payments, which we could not do before and is a huge step forward for us.
"Within a couple of days of the new website launching we had started picked up new customers which was fantastic. We are so grateful to the county council for their support. Without the grant, we would not have been able to afford the website upgrade for several years."
Active Mobility, a long-established business which employs five people, is now looking forward with confidence despite the very challenging year.
"The pandemic has had a big impact and cost us about half our business, but we have a great team here and a loyal customer base, so we have weathered the storm," said Tracy. "With the fantastic support of the Retail & Hospitality Grant, we are now looking to grow again."
Visit Warwickshire puts visitors in the driving seat with five new road trips
"These excellent guides will inspire people to plan ahead for road trips to our beautiful county, when permitted to do so, creating a win for visitors, and a win for local businesses along the routes.”
Five inspiring driving routes have been drawn up to showcase to visitors to Warwickshire the diverse appeal and beauty of the county.
As the Government’s roadmap to reopening leads to cautious optimism that pandemic restrictions will end later this year, Visit Warwickshire is encouraging visitors to plan a road trip exploring the length and breadth of this beautiful county with the help of the five new routes.
The road trips (https://visit.warwickshire.gov.uk/greatdrives), call at all corners of the county and provide lots of ideas about what to see and do along the way. They are the perfect aid for planning trips for when lockdown eases and everybody can travel freely and safely again.
They offer scope to explore towns and villages from Nuneaton to Stratford-upon-Avon, as well as places of interest as diverse as Arbury Hall, which appears in the works of George Eliot, and the British Motor Museum which reveals the role of Warwickshire as the nation’s home of motor manufacturing.
The route also include recommendations about where to eat, from scenic picnic stops to a rural cafe with more than 75,000 second-hand and antiquarian books to browse and buy.
The self-guided tours, which range from 35 miles (55km) to 55 miles (86km) in length, provide the basis for half or whole-day trips. Free to download and easy to use, each route comes with a description, information about 10 main points of interest, detailed route notes, advice about electric charging points, and a map.
Warwickshire County Council strategic director for communities Mark Ryder said: “Tourism has a major role to play in driving Warwickshire’s economic recovery from the pandemic. We hope these excellent guides will inspire people to plan ahead for road trips to our beautiful county, when permitted to do so, creating a win for visitors, and a win for local businesses along the routes.”
Visit Warwickshire is part of Warwickshire County Council's economic recovery plan. It aims to invigorate the county's tourism industry, focusing on the domestic market and promoting the county as a destination for day visits and short breaks. It will run alongside, and complement, the existing marketing activity undertaken by regional tourism organisations and independent tourism businesses.
*Visitors are advised to check opening times at individual attractions before departure.
For more details, please visit: http://visit.warwickshire.gov.uk/ and follow #VisitWarwickshire
"Inspirational" digital skills training pumps up the tyres of bicycle business
"To have the opportunity to get fresh input on the digital side of our business was really good...I would say it’s been inspirational."
A Warwickshire bicycle business has emerged as one of the success stories of the pandemic after meeting the ongoing commitment of amateur cyclists to invest in their hobby.
Velo Atelier, run by bike designer Lee Prescott and his wife, Jo, has also been supported with digital skills training that has helped it to grow its market during the crisis.
Lee, who studied product design at Coventry University, has pedigree in the bike industry, with a CV that includes working as head of design for the world-famous Stratford-upon-Avon-based Pashley Cycles.
After establishing his own full design and fit service Velo Atelier, he created his own brand, Meteor Cycles — named after the factory in Coventry where J K Starley invented the modern bicycle.
Both are based at Hatton Technology Park and have a growing customer base, locally and nationally, which appears to be as keen as ever to spend their time and money on their bikes. The business has also been boosted by government guidelines that allowed bike shops to remain open for much of the pandemic.
It was during last year that the couple decided the next stage of the development of their business was to move their online presence up a gear.
They signed up to the Warwickshire County Council funded workshops and one-to-one support to improve their digital skills delivered by Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and Stories Marketing, funded through the Council’s Warwickshire Towns Network programme.
Jo said: “Lee is the mastermind of the business, but he had been doing all the social media as well as everything else. So, signing up to the programme was a catalyst to increase our own knowledge but specifically to upskill me.
“Purely looking at the metrics, the number of hits, the number of likes, the number of follows, the number of shares, all of it has gone up since we started to employ the tactics we took away from the workshops. The level of detail in them was incredible and we came out with a clear road map of how we’d be able to better use and improve our social media.
“For example, having the confidence to put a call to action on a post, so rather than just saying ‘hey look at these new wheels’, it’s simple things like adding an instruction ‘click here to buy’, ‘share our post’ or ‘leave us a review’. Helping people by telling them what you want to do with the post makes a real difference.
“Lee has also been doing Facebook ‘lives’ to share his expertise on specific subjects, and to host store walks to show people around the new service centre.”
Jo added: “It’s fair to say that the bike industry has done fairly well during the pandemic. We were shut for two to three months from the outset of the full lockdown in March, but by the summer we were able to reopen. We’re not like a high street bike shop that you go into, where there are lots of bikes, our services are one-to-one, so it was quite easy for us to adapt to the COVID guidelines.
“But to have the opportunity to get fresh input on the digital side of our business was really good. I would say it’s been inspirational. I’m regularly dipping into my notes and still have a big list of things from the workshops that we’ll be having a go at.”
The advice and training are being offered as part of a larger package of support from Warwickshire County Council to continue to support economic recovery within the county, which includes the Survive, Sustain and Grow programme, Adapt & Diversify Grants as well as the business start-up programme.
For more details on the digital skills support or to book a place on the taster session, go to towncentres.eventbrite.com
Sports coach app SME boosted by Business Ready guidance
“We’ve had very good feedback from the FA in our early discussions so we will begin with football and then move onto other sports very quickly."
Two Warwickshire entrepreneurs plan to make the lives of amateur sports coaches easier with the development of a revolutionary new app – which already has buy-in from the Football Association.
Clubbie was created in 2016 by Rugby businessman Chris White as a social media platform for sports clubs and individuals to share video highlights and has grown to have 4,000 clubs on its database.
Meanwhile, entrepreneur Joe Wheatley had set up and was running amateur football team Shottery United and started to develop an app called Club Bubble to look after some of the many administrative processes involved in running a team – from checking player availability through to buying kit.
Gaynor Matthews, a Business Ready adviser, was mentoring both Joe and Chris separately but when she saw the synergy between the two individuals, she recommended they meet and look at working together.
Business Ready is a programme that delivers support to expanding businesses which is managed by the business support team at the University of Warwick Science Park, and is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council as part of the CW Business: Start, Grow & Scale Programme.
The two have now joined forces under the Clubbie brand and Chris has given Joe the backing to get a new app created by experienced programmers and developers, which is set to launch in May.
“Clubbie was built on the fact that lots of amateur sports clubs now have very good recording equipment,” Joe said. “It created a space for teams to build a network and share some of the highlights and it was growing.
“The Coronavirus crisis saw most amateur sporting activity cancelled and then only return for a short period of time before being cancelled again. Chris was looking at ways that he could maintain engagement with the platform and I was just in the process of creating Club Bubble, which was aimed at the same market and audience.”
The new app offers a range of features including the payment of fees, the ability to purchase kit, check availability for fixtures and even show team selection and formation for football clubs. The company has been in discussion with the Football Association with the potential of fixtures being directly added to a coach’s Clubbie app so they don’t have to manually upload those fixtures.
It will also offer up-to-the-minute statistics such as top scorers, league tables, highest assists and match reports. It will then be rolled out to other sports.
Joe said: “From my own experience and from what other coaches tell me, they have so much admin to do and it would make life much, much easier if this could all be done in one place as they find themselves having to access various websites and different apps to get everything done.
“We’ve had very good feedback from the FA in our early discussions so we will begin with football and then move onto other sports very quickly.
“We believe the app will be seen as a real support for amateur sports participants and by attracting them to Clubbie with the convenience of what we offer, they will then follow that by using the engaging social media platform to upload and view videos.
“It’s thanks to Gaynor at Business Ready that we were brought together and she is continuing to support us, including helping apply for grant funding to accelerate the pace at which we can grow.”
The company is also looking to attract further investment in order to be able to speed up its growth.
Gaynor said: “I could see that both Joe and Chris had great passion for their ideas and the drive and energy to make them successful, but it was also clear that the two could be even stronger if they were working in tandem.
“I introduced them and it has led to the development of the Clubbie app which has real potential. I’m now working with them on potentially accessing grant funding as well as supporting their efforts to secure further investment which would allow them to grow even more quickly.”
"Fundamental change" needed to build on region's strength post-pandemic
“The resilience, creativity and agility shown in Coventry and Warwickshire since March 2020, compared to other areas of the UK, will be vital as we build a successful and sustainable future economy.”
A fundamental change in the whole economy in Coventry and Warwickshire is needed to minimise the impacts of Covid-19, according to a regional report.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub’s current SmartRegion report is based on data collected from its dealings with businesses as well as surveys and information from Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council and the CWLEP.
The CWLEP has developed its Strategic Reset Framework to set out how, by working with other organisations including the Growth Hub, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, the FSB and local authorities, it can influence the recovery of the area and shape its long-term economy.
The report encourages every business to see themselves as a new business. It also highlights the approaches needed to build on Coventry and Warwickshire’s existing strengths and lead the drive in various sectors including digital, automation, robotics and Artificial Intelligence, and electrification.
Securing energy supply for future capital infrastructure, employment land for new development sites and support for a new advisory service for innovation and commercialisation are among the areas identified by the CWLEP.
There is also an emphasis on embracing new and innovative low-carbon technologies to encourage a green recovery throughout the area.
Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said this was a vital time in building the foundations for Coventry and Warwickshire’s future success.
“We want to influence and champion our economic recovery, and shape the type of economy we have for the long-term. To do that, there needs to be a fundamental change,” he said.
“The CWLEP’s business groups and board of directors have been discussing and finalising its Strategic Reset Framework for many months as we all work together to prioritise and deliver the projects which need to be achieved to push our economy forward.
“All this information will be used when we ask for funding from Government or through the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Midlands Engine for capital and revenue projects.
“We need continued Government investment in the business support infrastructure to help companies to adapt to new trading and market conditions, job search and training support to help reskill and upskill workers of all ages, as well as helping to build consumer confidence to help facilitate the economic recovery and keep unemployment levels as low as possible.
“We are already assisting businesses with much-needed help and support which has already been established by the Growth Hub, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, the FSB and local authorities, as well as through initiatives such as the CW Employment Solutions website which promotes current and future job opportunities to jobseekers and employers.
“We believe we can create the environment for innovation and enterprise to flourish in the future by strong and focused partnerships working between all parts of our economy.
“The resilience, creativity and agility shown in Coventry and Warwickshire since March 2020, compared to other areas of the UK, will be vital as we build a successful and sustainable future economy.”