Welcome from Monica Fogarty

Hello and welcome to the latest edition of Warwickshire Still Means Business.

It is great to hear that, despite the increased frequency of WSMB, the editorial team is far from struggling to find stories - and, what's more, very positive ones. In this edition, please read about a range of businesses which have adapted brilliantly to help the communities around them through this difficult time.

This year has posed challenges of a type and magnitude that nobody could have envisaged but Warwickshire businesses have risen to those challenges with huge resourcefulness, enterprise and skill - a sure sign that Warwickshire Still Means Business!

Warwickshire Gin Company and PSW Paper & Print, both of which have benefited from WCC business support programmes, have channelled their expertise into producing much-needed supplies for the NHS and care homes. IC Solutions have recruited to meet exceptional demand for their services and are supporting their fellow businesses at the Centenary Business Centre in Nuneaton. PetShop.Co.uk have recruited to keep staff working round the clock 24/7 to meet demand from the nation's locked-down pet-owners.

Following the Prime Minister's address on Sunday, social distancing remains paramount and the message remains clear - Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives - but the business world can begin to take some small, very careful, steps back towards normality. We will continue to do all we can to support businesses of all sizes and in all sectors throughout Warwickshire along that path.

We are working with our partners at the district and borough councils to get Government grants out to businesses. The national average for eligible businesses who have been supported in accessing grants or loans stands at 61%; in Warwickshire, we are over 70%, so heartfelt thanks and well done to everyone who has been working so hard to get that process moving so quickly. It is gratifying to read the story of Rustic Food as an example of how that the rapid grant turnover was so important and appreciated.

The Government has also announced a top-up to the grant schemes. A further £617 million is being made available nationally to accommodate certain small businesses outside the scope of the current schemes. The Government is expected to publish guidance for local authorities shortly and information on eligibility in Warwickshire and how to apply will be published as soon as possible. The new grant fund will again be managed by Warwickshire’s District and Borough Councils as the billing authorities.

Finally, Warwickshire County Council has recently announced that we will be adding to the pot of funding available for small businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to make sure that more funds are available locally to support our smaller enterprises with short-term loans to help them get through this period. The County Council has approved a loan of £1 million to Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust, one of the approved lenders under the CBILS scheme.

There is a lot of support and advice available to businesses - please make sure you take advantage to any that is relevant to yours.

Right now, we are seeing the best of Warwickshire businesses, as we all pull together to get through. We must remain positive and hopeful that our economy will be back on its feet just as soon as is possible. If we continue to support each other; and to dig deep into our innovation and resilience, I just know we can come out the other side.

In the meantime, stay well.

Best wishes as ever,


Featured News

Small deli is planning for the future thanks to "breathing space" from swift Government grant

"The speed at which the grant came through was a huge help and the support we have received all-round from Warwick District Council and Warwickshire County Council has been exceptional."

A small deli and caterer in Leamington Spa has rolled with the punches of the pandemic to reopen for its customers - and is planning for life post-Covid-19 thanks to the "breathing space" afforded by the swift arrival of a small business rate relief grant.

Rustic Food, in Regent Street, was one of more than 5,000 small businesses to receive a grant within days of the funding's release by Government.

The district and borough councils across Warwickshire, working with Warwickshire County Council, allocated more than 60% of eligible grants in the first two weeks, putting them firmly among the best-performing local authorities in the country, and have now allocated over 80%,well above the national average of 74%.

That rapid roll-out of the complex process was an immeasurable help to businesses at such a difficult time. In the case of Rustic Food, the speedy work by Warwick District Council 'eased the pressure' and enabled the family-owned business to reopen its doors - and start planning to keep them open, and the business growing, far into the future.  

"We closed for two weeks to take stock of the situation and wait for government advice," said director Daniel Moss. "Then on Good Friday we opened from 9am to 1pm, with customers able to pre-order for collection and a strict one-in-one-out policy at the store. We also made deliveries.

"Trade was very good and our customers and suppliers were so supportive, it was really uplifting. To be honest, it did us the world of good just to be open again at this really strange time. Since then we have opened every Friday morning and we are planning to expand that to opening all day Friday and also Saturday mornings.

"It was fantastic that the grant came through so quickly because it meant we did not have to worry about taking out a loan. It gave us breathing space and the confidence to plan ahead. Our business will be very different post-Covid 19 so this breathing space has given us time to think about how the business might look in 2021.

"The speed at which the grant came through was a huge help and the support we have received all-round from Warwick District Council and Warwickshire County Council has been exceptional. They have kept us informed every step of the way and Leamington BID have also been excellent."

IC Solutions rises to the challenge at Centenary Business Centre

"There has always been great interaction between the businesses at the Centenary Centre, with everyone helping each other if they can, so we are delighted to be able to do our bit."

An infection control business in Nuneaton has enlarged its workforce to help deal with an influx of new customers.

The expertise of IC Solutions, based at the Centenary Business Centre, Hammond Close, has never been in greater demand than in the current pandemic, leading to them receiving a flood of new orders.

This has led to a turnover of a year's business in only 16 days for the company which has risen to the challenge by recruiting to enable it to fulfil those orders - and has also still found time to support its neighbouring business at the Warwickshire County Council-run business centre.

"We have been inundated with work and have taken on extra staff to enable us to keep up with the demand," said business and marketing administrator Kerri Harris.

"Of course, we have been totally vigilant regarding the welfare of all our employees and customers. We have put procedures in place to protect both our staff and visitors. Hand-sanitiser dispensers have been handed out to all staff and we are practicing social distancing.

"We have also been taking in mail for other businesses at the centre and distributing it. It is something that we are pleased to do because there has always been great interaction between the businesses at the Centenary Centre, with everyone helping each other if they can, so we are delighted to be able to do our bit."

IC Solutions was created by former Nuneaton resident Oliver Canty in 2010 and has built a global client-base, supplying environmental infection control products and services to the NHS, businesses and daycare children's nurseries across the UK, Europe, the United States and Middle East.

Never have their skills been more needed than now as businesses and communities prepare to begin the long path back to some sort of normality when the lockdown is eased.

"Of course, these are not the circumstances we would choose in which to be busy, but we are proud that our services are proving of such value," said Kerri. "Our disinfection service is in high demand from business across the sectors

"We are incredibly busy and it is great to have such a perfect base at the Centenary Business Centre. The unit here gives us everything we need and the staff are really helpful and flexible which contributes to the positive atmosphere around the centre."

Warwickshire County Council assistant director for communities Dave Ayton-Hill said: "IC Solutions is a great example of a business reacting to the current tough situation is a proactive way. Like so many other busineses they have shown a resilience and enterprise which provides a strong platform for us all to start rebuilding the economy.

"I am delighted to hear that the Centenary Business Centre meets all their needs as a base. We are very proud of the supportive atmosphere created at the centre by our excellent staff and the businesses themselves."   

New guidance launched to help get more people safely back to work

The Government has published new guidance for employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and their workplaces operating safely.

The new COVID-19 secure’ guidelines are available to UK employers to help them make workplaces as safe as possible and give people confidence to go back to work during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The guidelines have been developed in consultation with around 250 businesses, unions and industry leaders as well as with devolved administrations.

The new guidance covers eight workplace settings which are allowed to be open, from outdoor environments and construction sites to factories and takeaways, and sets out practical steps for businesses focused on five key points, which should be implemented as soon as it is practical.

A summary of the new guidance, as well as  links to other useful websites, can be found on the Warwickshire County Council website here

Growth Fund grant helps PSW get vital equipment to hospitals and care homes

“We launched the Growth Fund to provide capital grants to small businesses looking to expand and this is a perfect example of this in action as well as helping to protect staff on the frontline in dealing with Covid-19.”

A grant from Warwickshire County Council for a Studley business to invest in state-of-the-art equipment is paying dividends to provide vital PPE equipment for hospital and care home staff in the Covid-19 pandemic.

PSW Paper & Print, whose head office and retail shop are in Alcester Road, has diversified into building face-visors from acetate sheets usually used as a clear front page to bind reports.

The family-run business has received its first order to provide 300 face visors a day for hospitals and care homes.

Phil Skinner, a director at PSW Paper & Print, said the investment in the £80,000 CNC Blackman & White machine, which included a £27,000 grant from the Warwickshire County Council Growth Fund, was proving critically important to help in the fight to curb the Coronavirus.

“Normally we use acetate sheets to bind books but we have the machinery to adapt them into making face visors,” he said. “These are needed for key workers at hospitals and care homes for staff to use when they are dealing with patients or elderly people.

“With the Warwickshire County Council Growth Fund, we bought a British-made Blackman & White machine last September and it is proving a great investment.

“We are also working with a Redditch pharmaceutical packaging company called Softbox to provide packaging inlays that will help keep products at a specific temperature during transportation.

“Overall, we have 30 staff including nine in the print division and they are producing 300 or 400 of these box layers every day so whether products need to be kept cold or hot, they arrive at their destination at the right temperature.

“These are jobs we couldn’t have done before we purchased the machine. Before the Coronavirus, we were running at capacity providing signage and posters for holiday parks and outdoor posters and menus for various pub chains and we have carried out complete shop re-fits for a national chain of car supplies and bike retailer.”

Mark Ryder, Strategic Director for Communities at Warwickshire County Council, said it was great to hear the grant from its Growth Fund was playing a part in providing PPE equipment.

“PSW Paper & Print has over 15 years’ experience in the industry and investing in a cutting-edge machine is taking the company into new markets to produce face visors in the battle against the Coronavirus,” he said.

“Businesses such as PSW Paper & Print are showing great entrepreneurship and showcasing their ability to adapt to new situations to provide equipment which is really needed at the moment.

“We launched the Growth Fund to provide capital grants to small businesses looking to expand and this is a perfect example of this in action as well as helping to protect staff on the frontline in dealing with Covid-19.”

Stratford-based pet supplies store operating 24/7 to meet lockdown demand

“We had to very quickly adjust our shifts because previously we had one 12-hour shift. Now our warehouse is open 24-7."

An online pet stores based in Stratford-upon-Avon has tripled its workforce to cope with rising demand from animal-owners across the UK during Covid-19.

PetShop.co.uk stocks over 10,000 products at its 40,000 sq ft premises at the Precision Business Park in Masons Road and the Government’s lockdown advice in the Coronavirus pandemic has led to a 300 per cent increase in sales, mainly from cat and dog owners buying food and having it delivered to their door.

Adam Taylor, who co-founded the business with his wife Lexi in 2010, said they have had to adapt their working practices quickly to cope with demand.

“It has been an unprecedented journey and we needed to react quickly to get Pet Parents orders out as quickly as possible," he said. "We are receiving orders from all over the UK since we’re a nationwide pet food business.

“We had to very quickly adjust our shifts because previously we had one 12-hour shift. Now our warehouse is open 24-7.

“We have taken on three times more people and now employ just under 70 staff in the warehouse as well as our regular ten staff in the office. We made the decision to keep our telephone lines open to help mainly elderly people who don’t have access to the internet, but the majority of these staff are working from home.

“Pre-Coronavirus , with the help of an RDPE Grant, we had started to make improvements to the capacity of our business by implementing Oracle Netsuite software and the RF-Smart warehouse solution so we have an entirely cloud system now that our staff can access anywhere so we’re robust and agile for people not working in the office.”

PetShop.co.uk has invested £164,000 as part of a £400,000 grant from the RPDE Growth Programme which identifies businesses with growth potential who can improve productivity and create full-time jobs.

The company has also received £35,000 from Warwickshire County Council’s Growth Fund after adding £125,000 itself to focus on future-proofing the business and investing in software systems.

Adam said there is a great deal of support for SMEs from organisations in Coventry and Warwickshire which was more important than ever.

He said: “This is an horrendous time and Covid-19 has impacted everyone, but there is no question that had we not upscaled our capacity and systems when we did, we would not have been able to service people directly at home.

“The financial support of Warwickshire County Council and the RPDE has been instrumental in taking the business forward and those foundations we had already put in place have, in hindsight, proved vital during this unforeseen pandemic.

“There is a great deal of help and advice available for small businesses in our area and it is more important than ever to take advantage of it.

“From the early days when we set-up the business, the mentoring we received from the Business Ready programme at the University of Warwick Science Park was a massive help as well as the free advice from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Hub which has contacts in so many places and has really helped us in recent years.”

Mark Ryder, Strategic Director for Communities at Warwickshire County Council, said PetShop.co.uk is a perfect example of a business that is reaping the benefits of not standing still.

He said: “PetShop.co.uk continues to go from success to success and its pro-active approach means they have developed a network of contacts to provide expert advice.

“We launched the Warwickshire County Council Growth Fund to provide capital grants to small businesses in our area with growth plans to help to reduce any barriers which may prevent their expansion.

“Their recent success is helping to stimulate our economy by providing jobs for local people and improving productivity and their move to Masons Road three years ago is certainly paying dividends since they have the space to store a large amount of stock which is being snapped up by customers across the UK.

“Obviously they would not have wanted a crisis such as this to stimulate the business but not only are they able to offer jobs to people at a time of uncertainty, they have allowed customers new and old to have deliveries to their door and thus abide by current advice.”

County Council backs coronavirus loan scheme with £1million

“Small businesses, and the employment opportunities that they offer locally, will play a key role in the economic recovery when we can return to more normal times.

Warwickshire County Council has approved the loan of £1million to support small businesses through the coronavirus pandemic.
The government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is available for companies to apply for a loan from approved lenders.
Among the approved lenders, which include all major banks, is the Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust (CWRT), a not-for-profit, FCA accredited finance provider. The trust supports businesses and individuals primarily based in Coventry and Warwickshire, both those looking to start up or existing businesses who need finances to grow.
However, the current pandemic and resultant temporary closure of many businesses means that demand is expected to exceed available lending, with additional financial backing now needed to help the scheme.
Warwickshire County Council has approved a loan of £1m to the CWRT to enable it to support businesses who are having cash flow problems due to the pandemic crisis. The scheme is backed by a partial guarantee from the government, but borrowers remain liable for 100% of the debt. It is expected that Warwickshire County Council’s £1m loan will enable CWRT to fill in some of the gaps in mainstream lending from banks, supporting small businesses to get through the crisis and safeguarding jobs.
Mark Ryder Strategic Director for Communities at Warwickshire County Council, said: “Small businesses, and the employment opportunities that they offer locally, will play a key role in the economic recovery when we can return to more normal times; we trust that loans from the CWRT will help them to stay solvent through these difficult circumstances. We are very pleased to bolster its working capital so that it can provide financial assistance to businesses where it is most needed.”
Sheridan Sulskis, Executive Director of the Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust, said: “People and businesses are at the heart of everything we do at CWRT. This increase in funding will assist CWRT in delivering responsible,
affordable lending to those who would otherwise struggle to obtain funding from mainstream lenders. We are delighted to be working with Warwickshire County Council to support businesses in Warwickshire with accessing finance to survive through this pandemic.”
Louise Bennett, Chief Executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: "This is very welcome news. Every survey undertaken by the British Chambers of Commerce since the Coronavirus outbreak has found that
cashflow is the number one issue for firms.
"Anything that can get more cash out to businesses quickly will mean more firms are able to survive this crisis and I have always found CWRT responsive, supportive and empathetic with local businesses seeking support at this time and I have brokered many businesses on to them for finance."
Rich Bishop, Federation of Small Business, West Midlands Regional Chair said: “With small firms making up 97% of private sector businesses across Warwickshire and Coventry this pro-active approach from Warwickshire County Council and CWRT is to be welcomed at this time. We understand from our members that there are lots of issues being encountered in accessing CBILS loans, which is especially frustrating for those businesses that sit outside of other Government support measures. This support through CWRT can help to provide a vital lifeline for small
firms that have been unable to get support elsewhere”
Further details of the CBIL scheme are available at www.cwrt.uk.com/cbils

Gin Company adapts its expertise to make sanitiser for key workers

“For us it’s about making sure we are doing our bit to support and help key workers"

A Leamington-based distiller is using its expertise in handcrafted gin to make hand sanitiser for frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Warwickshire Gin Company produced 4,000 litres of sanitiser on the first day of production and it will be made available exclusively to care homes and key workers on the frontline.

After getting the go-ahead from HMRC, the business had labels made up and started producing the new product in their distillery. The distiller is using the World Health Organisation’s recommended formula for the sanitiser – which uses the same base alcohol that is used in creating its artisan gins.

It is appealing to companies in the region for any stock of bottles to dispense the sanitiser, with stock from regular suppliers depleted across the UK.

Dave Blick, director at Warwickshire Gin Company, expects his business could produce up to 60,000 litres of sanitiser over the next 12 months. He has also set-up a crowdfunding page to be able to give some the hand sanitiser away for free to those on the frontline who need it most.

Dave said: “For us it’s about making sure we are doing our bit to support and help key workers, from care workers to delivery drivers and supermarket staff. They are all struggling to get hold of this product and they are the people we will be helping out first.

“Everything is upfront cost for us. We can’t get any credit with any suppliers, because people are worried about getting paid. We’ve put our money into being able to finance our first batch, and hopefully that will support the next batch.

“If people support the crowdfunding we have set up, we will be able to give more litres of hand sanitiser away and reach more people.

“We’re thinking outside the box to find bottles for the sanitiser and have already sourced dispensing bottles from Little Soap Company and Primark at a discounted rate. It’s nice to be able to do something useful in times like this. Dunkirk spirit has been discussed, having lots of little ships helping, and we are grateful to be doing our bit.”

Mark Ryder, Strategic Director for Communities at Warwickshire County Council, said: “There is a pressing need for supplies for frontline NHS and care home workers, so it is great to hear what the Warwickshire Gin Company has done off its own back to help the national cause.

“It is typical of the response we have had from firms of all sizes, and says a great deal about businesses across Warwickshire.”

* Warwickshire Gin Company has been supported by Warwickshire County Council’s business support programmes.

County Council says a big thank you to PPE suppliers

“It has been wonderful to see businesses and communities joining forces to help our health and social care workers.”

Warwickshire County Council is grateful to local companies, charities, community groups and residents, who have been helping with the supply and distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect frontline staff in the fight against Covid-19.

Warwickshire businesses have repurposed production to make a range of protective items, such as aprons and visors, while other local firms have generously donated PPE equipment.

On a smaller scale, individuals and craft groups have come together virtually to create ‘scrub-hubs’ to create supplies of PPE (see https://scrubhub.org.uk/).

The PPE that has been manufactured and donated includes masks (Type IIR, II or FFP2), nitrile powder free gloves, disposable aprons, fluid resistant gowns, clinical waste bags and eye protection.

Warwickshire County Council’s Chief Executive, Monica Fogarty, said: “This equipment is helping protect key workers supporting our most vulnerable people and I’m incredibly proud of the way Warwickshire is responding to Covid-19.

“It has been wonderful to see businesses and communities joining forces to help our health and social care workers.”

If your business would like to donate appropriate PPE – whether by donating your own stock, or by repurposing your manufacturing processes – you can get in touch by emailing PPEPSG@warwickshire.gov.uk.

Warwickshire County Council is working with partners such as WMCA, CW Growth Hub, CW Chamber and Midlands Manufacturing Network to support businesses that have relevant capabilities and would like to re-purpose their production lines to make PPE but need some direction on making this change.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you supply PPE, get in touch at: ppe@westmids.org.uk

Businesses encouraged to feature in 'Shop & Eat Local’ video.

"This video will encourage the people of Warwickshire to seek out and support their local independents - and keep supporting them into the future"

Retail businesses have been invited to appear in a short promotional video compiled by Warwickshire County Council to encourage people to support their local independent shops.

The county council is encouraging any business which is operational and offering delivery or collection services to its customersto senda short video-clip showing  their products or shop-front.

The clips will then be built into a promotional video to encourage the people of Warwickshire to shop and eat locally. The video will also signpost viewers to any online directories set up by towns and villages.

Warwickshire County Council assistant director for communities Dave Ayton-Hill said: "Lots of businesses out there in our towns and villages have risen to the challenges of lockdown brilliantly and managed to move their businesses towards online or order-based models in a matter of days.

"The last few weeks have emphasised more than ever the value of having so many wonderful local independent shops and restaurants in our towns and villages. Lockdown has reminded us all how much they are missed when they are not open and available to us.

"This video will encourage the people of Warwickshire to seek out and support their local independents -and keep supporting them into the future."

One business which reacted swiftly to the fast-moving situation is 33The Scullery in Stratford-upon-Avon. Following the Government's abrupt closure of all food & drink premises, one of the restaurants’ owners Andrew Edwards, quickly adapted the menu to move the business online, offering and promoting meals via Facebook and the local newspaper, to be ordered and delivered or collected.

“Orders went very quiet in the days immediately after lockdown so we were quite worried," said Andrew. "But we think this was just a case of people adjusting to events. After a couple of weeks business has picked up again and we are grateful for the support of our local customers through these changing times.”

If you are you open for business online or offering a collection or delivery service and would like your business to feature in the promotional video, please get involved and send a short video clip of your business to Towns@warwickshire.gov.uk.

Rural business survey will shape thinking and policy

Rural businesses in Warwickshire have been urged to take part in the first large-scale survey in the county to determine the impact of Covid-19 in the sector.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub is collaborating with the Warwickshire Rural Hub – a business support organisation which is led by farm and rural businesses across Warwickshire and Solihull – and Warwickshire County Council to target around 1,300 businesses.

The results of the survey will be fed back by the CWLEP Growth Hub to the Government to help determine future funding and help for the sector.

Diversification, investment, innovation and skills are among the topics included in the Coronavirus survey and the responses will also feed into the delivery of Warwickshire County Council’s new economic strategywhich identifies support for the rural economy as one of its priorities as well as plans to support the economic recovery in the county.

Craig Humphrey, the Managing Director of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub, said it is the first time a rural-focused survey of this scale has been undertaken by the organisations.

He said: “This survey was initiated from the CWLEP SME Supergroup Business Group meetings where rural representatives have been advocating for further support to be directed at businesses in this industry.

“This is a natural next step to gather intelligence and make decisions around resources based on the evidence from rural businesses.

“We started engaging more in-depth last year with the rural business community because of the European Union exit and specific issues affecting them particularly the food and drink and agricultural sectors which would have been severely impacted by the EU exit to help tackle and mitigate the impact.

“But the new challenge of Covid-19 and recent floods has put further pressures on rural businesses.

“This may be different to other businesses or be more severe because of the impact on labour, food businesses adapting to new regulations, farmers thinking about diversifying and adapting to new technological developments, and sales and trade that have been impacted by flooded farmland.

“We hope as many business owners as possible will complete the questionnaire so that we can help to provide the support which rural businesses actually need than what we think they need.”

Henry Lucas, a farmer and chair of the Warwickshire Rural Hub, said: “The Warwickshire Rural Hub has been helping farmers and rural businesses to prosper via its free membership for over 17 years. 

“I would urge as many people as possible to fill in the questionnaire so that the problems being faced by rural businesses in the current Coronavirus crisis are highlighted and the results of the survey can be used to shape future support.”

Dave Ayton-Hill, Assistant Director for Communities at Warwickshire County Council, said: “The County Council is pleased to support this survey. The farming and agricultural sector plays a huge role in making Warwickshire the rural, green and attractive location that underpins and supports our wider economic base and particularly our tourism offer.

“The rural sector already faced new challenges and opportunities following Brexit as well as growth potential through the development and utilisation of innovative new technologies. But Covid-19 has brought new challenges. This survey will be used by the County Council and other partners to direct support for rural businesses as they deal with the impacts of Covid-19.

“We also hope there will be new opportunities. Localfood and drink for example is growing in popularity and will play a key role as well reducing food miles and supporting our collective desire to reduce the carbon footprint of Warwickshire’s economy.”

The Growth Hub has a blended funding model with contributions from central government, local government and the European Regional Development Fund.

If your business is based in rural Warwickshire, please take part in the survey here

Speedy £10,000 grant enables Appoint Us to maintain its excellent work during lockdown

“We are pleased to have been able to help Appoint Us access the government grant to support its work in these unprecedented times.”

An award-winning social enterprise with a focus on preventing social isolation among the elderly and vulnerable throughout Warwickshire and Coventry is developing a stronger voice to help people of all ages.

Appoint Us, a community interest company based at the Rural Innovation Centre at Stoneleigh Park, has provided a wide range of support to the elderly and vulnerable for over five years.

Part of that work includes music sessions delivered by its creative therapy team, and that service is now in demand by communities right across the area. The service has been adapted due to social distancing, with singalongs performed outside instead of inside homes and, as a result, enjoyed by whole streets who are now asking for repeat performances to lift collective spirits.

Julie Earls, director of Appoint Us, said: “We have now been approached by people asking if we will join in their street’s Clap For Our Carers with a singalong. It’s something we do normally all year round to bring a bit of joy into people’s lives but now there is a whole world out there that needs uplifting.”

Although their services are needed more than ever during the current lockdown, Appoint Us has been restricted due to social distancing. Its income, which is all generated back into the community, has been severely hit, resulting in 13 staff being reduced to three.

It is now concentrating on three core services – prevention of social isolation, singing at social distance, and shopping for the elderly and vulnerable, as well as continuing to provide services such as getting hot meals to existing customers and considering new ones for the service. For the first time, it is having to seek grant aid.

Julie approached the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP Growth Hub for help in accessing a government business interruption loan and, as a result of enquiries to Warwick District Council, is being issued a £10,000 grant.

She said: “We have never ever had to rely on funding as we have always been self-reliant but we can’t be because of the current situation. The £10,000 grant is crucial in enabling us to carry on our work and retain staff, including our singer.

“The shopping service that we provide, such as for sheltered accommodation complexes across Coventry and Warwickshire, is more important than ever and it’s important to keep getting the message across to the elderly that they need to stay at home and be safe.

“We are committed to using profits and income to create benefits for society and by purchasing a service from us, people are helping to give back to the local community as well.”

The company’s staff, who are enhanced-DBS checked and insured, collect shopping from ‘click and collect’ supermarkets or Farmers Fayre, a farm shop also based at Stoneleigh Park which is now offering a contactless drive thorough service for groceries ordered online. They also offer a shopping and delivery service where staff will shop at certain supermarkets from the customer’s own list and deliver it to the door.

Mark Ryder, Strategic Director for Communities at Warwickshire County Council, said: “Appoint Us provides important services to the elderly and vulnerable at all times and is working hard to adapt to the challenges of Coronavirus.

“Its current focus in preventing social isolation and shopping is more important than ever and it is fantastic that the wider community is now calling on its services to help others through this difficult time and show their appreciation for the NHS and key workers.

“We are pleased to have been able to help Appoint Us access the government grant to support its work in these unprecedented times.”

Anyone interested in accessing and support Appoint Us services, can email info@appointusservices.co.uk or phone 024 7699 8414. For more information, visit www.appointusservices.co.uk


Emotional well-being in the workplace – please take part in our Employer Survey

Warwickshire County Council is looking at how it can support micro businesses with mental wellbeing support during the COVID 19 pandemic.

It has been an unprecedented time of change bringing new anxieties and pressures to employees. We recognise that smaller businesses may not have the HR resources of larger companies to be able to provide large scale emotional support during this time.

To better understand the needs and requirements of local business, we invite local micro businesses to take part in a very short survey, the results of which will help us to shape and direct this offer. Thank you in advance for your input.

Please take part in the survey here. Many thanks.

'FinditinCW' offers 'New Brand, New Features, More Opportunities'

Coventry and Warwickshire LEP Growth Hub, in partnership with Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, have launched a new website for local businesses to access supply chain opportunities and a range of other B2B resources.

FinditinCW is a new business-to-business portal, exclusive to businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire, which replaces CWConnect and is now up and running.

It combines the local business knowledge of the Growth Hub and the Chamber with the well-established brand ‘Finditin’ to link businesses to opportunities across the region, with an innovative approach, free access to supply chain opportunities, and a wealth of membership benefits for businesses and organisations, from the smallest to the largest.

FinditinCW key features include:

• an improved B2B portal with user-friendly functionality.
• high-level security enhancements to protect your information and data
• access to exclusive ‘Meet the Buyer’ events with private and public sector buyers
• procurement and business support workshops
• one-stop shop for Games contracts and opportunities for Birmingham 2022
• tender and contract alerts for other high profile projects in the area
• post-an-opportunities service, to source a local, cost-effective supplier on your doorstep
• access to an internal Quick Quote system to invite potential suppliers to quote for goods and services
• business support from Coventry & Warwickshire LEP Growth Hub and Chamber of Commerce
• lots more!

To register, please visit www.finditincw.co.uk

Work of 'Progress' more important than ever during lockdown

Despite the Coronavirus outbreak, the Progress programme is still accepting referrals for young people aged 15-24 across Coventry and Warwickshire who are currently NEET.

Progress, delivered by Groundwork,  is a specialised programme aimed at young people who are the furthest away from the job market. More than ever during these uncertain times, it is a vital support network for vulnerable young people.

Groundwork is continuing its work through Progress which is a tailored programme of coaching and support to help NEET young people access training and employment opportunities. Progress coaches are working with young people remotely, ensuring they are in regular contact online and via telephone.

Regular video-chat sessions help the youngsters to stay in contact with their peers. Coaches have devised a range of engagement activities with young people are set daily tasks which engage them in exercise and creativity.

Getting out in the fresh air, always a healthy thing to do, is especially important and restorative during lockdown so the young people can also request seed packs and compost to encourage them to keep busy in the garden.

Remote support available also includes CV-writing and employability sessions to keep participants motivated toward finding a job, as well as mental health support to ensure that young people stay healthy and on track.

Progress is a part of ‘Building Better Opportunities’ – a programme funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund to tackle poverty and social exclusion faced by the most disadvantaged people in England.

For more information about the Progress programme please go to https://www.groundwork.org.uk/projects/progress/

HMRC invites self-employed to make their claims

"SEISS is a temporary scheme that will enable those eligible to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their average trading profits up to a maximum of £7,500 (equivalent to three months’ profits) in a single instalment."

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has started contacting around three and a half million customers who may be eligible for the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to explain the application process and help them get ready to make a claim.  

The claims service will open on Wednesday 13 May and is being delivered ahead of schedule, with payments reaching bank accounts by 25 May, or six working days after the claim is made.  

The scheme will benefit self-employed individuals or those in a partnership whose business has been adversely affected by coronavirus, covering most people who get at least half of their income from self-employment.  

SEISS is a temporary scheme that will enable those eligible to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their average trading profits up to a maximum of £7,500 (equivalent to three months’ profits) in a single instalment. 

HMRC is using information that customers have provided in their 2018-19 tax return – and returns for 2016-17 and 2017-18 where needed – to determine their eligibility and is contacting customers who may be eligible via email, SMS or letter. An online checker is also open which will let customers check their eligibility for themselves, as well as giving them a date on which they can apply. 

Customers are eligible if their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus, they traded in 2019-20, intend to continue trading and they:       

  • Earn at least half of their income through self-employment;​    
  • Have trading profits of no more than £50,000 per year; and​    
  • Traded in the tax year 2018 to 2019 and submitted their Self Assessment tax return on or before 23 April 2020 for that year​.     

Where individuals are ineligible for the scheme, HMRC will direct them to guidance setting out the conditions to help them understand why they are ineligible and advice about other support that might be available to them such as: income tax deferrals, rental support, Universal Credit, access to mortgage holidays and the various business support schemes the government has introduced to protect businesses during this time.    

Their phone lines will be very busy over the next few weeks as people enter the new scheme, so customers are encouraged customers to only call us if they can’t find what they need on GOV.UK, from their tax agent or via our webchat service. For more information please visit: here


Upcoming events

Date Event Link to find out more
2020.05.12 Networking with Findabiz Rugby via Zoom Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/networking-with-findabiz-rugby-tickets-102769903548?aff=ebdssbonlinesearch  
2020.05.12 CWRT Jumpstart - Business Planning Workshop (Online) Leamington Spa Online https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/cwrt-jumpstart-business-planning-workshop-online-leamington-spa
2020.05.13 Business Support Session for Stratford-upon-Avon Businesses (Online Call) Online https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/business-support-session-stratford-upon-avon-businesses-online-call
2020.05.14 Startup Essentials - Meet with our Tech Business Adviser, Virtually! Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/startup-essentials-meet-with-our-tech-business-adviser-virtually-thur-tickets-100803965374?aff=ebdssbonlinesearch 
2020.05.18 Motivations, Messages and Marketing in a Covid-19 Environment Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/motivations-messages-and-marketing-in-a-covid-19-environment-tickets-103127348676
2020.05.18 FoT Webinar - Is the Automotive Industry in the Slow Lane? Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fot-webinar-is-the-automotive-industry-in-the-slow-lane-tickets-103719218976 
2020.05.19 Technology Business Start - Up, Skills &Advice, Network&Connect Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/webinar-how-to-pitch-session-3-tickets-101882431094
2020.05.19 Birmingham's COVID-19 Recovery Plan: What Happens Next? - Panel Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/birminghams-covid-19-recovery-plan-what-happens-next-tickets-104012993664?aff=ebdssbonlinesearch 
2020.05.19 FoT Webinar - Simulations - Would you trust them with your life? Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fot-webinar-simulations-would-you-trust-them-with-your-life-tickets-103723525858 
2020.05.20 Fot Webinar - Machine Learning or Learning from Machines? Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fot-webinar-machine-learning-or-learning-from-machines-tickets-103725569972 
2020.05.21 Maximise LinkedIn with Innovative Marketing Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/maximise-linkedin-with-innovative-marketing-tickets-93940660043
2020.05.21 Business Support Session for Rugby Businesses (Online Call) Online https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/business-support-session-rugby-businesses-online-call-0
2020.05.21 FoT Webinar - Immersive technology - tool or toy? Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fot-webinar-immersive-technology-tool-or-toy-tickets-103727768548 
2020.05.22 FoT Webinar - The Digitalisation Imperative Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fot-webinar-the-digitalisation-imperative-tickets-103913108906 
2020.05.22 Creative Mornings Leamington Spa Online https://creativemornings.com/cities/lms 
2020.05.22 Business Support Session: Warwick District Based Businesses (Online Call) Online https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/business-support-session-warwick-district-based-businesses-online-call-0
2020.05.26 WEBINAR - How to write your business plan (Session 4) Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/webinar-how-to-write-your-business-plan-session-4-tickets-101883329782
2020.05.27 Business Support Session for North Warwickshire Businesses (Online Call) Online https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/business-support-session-north-warwickshire-businesses-online-call-0
2020.05.28 Invictus Business Web Online Meeting - Southam Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/invictus-business-web-online-meeting-southam-tickets-104824294286?aff=ebdssbonlinesearch
2020.06.02 WEBINAR - How to set up a marketing campaign in the Covid-19 era Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/webinar-how-to-set-up-a-marketing-campaign-in-the-covid-19-era-tickets-104117985698
2020.06.02 CWRT Jumpstart - Business Planning Workshop (Online) Nuneaton Online https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/cwrt-jumpstart-business-planning-workshop-online-nuneaton
2020.06.04 Employee Engagement with the Business Webinar Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/employee-engagement-with-the-business-webinar-tickets-95813537871
2020.06.05 CWRT Jumpstart- Digital Branding Day Online https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/cwrt-jumpstart-digital-branding-day-online
2020.06.08 One to One Business Support Session for Nuneaton & Bedworth Businesses Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/one-to-one-business-support-session-for-nuneaton-bedworth-businesses-tickets-84592639863?aff=ebdssbcitybrowse
2020.06.08 SketchUp for Architectural Design and Construction Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sketchup-for-architectural-design-and-construction-on-line-tickets-103315617794
2020.06.09 WEBINAR - How to use traditional media in the Covid-19 era Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/webinar-how-to-use-traditional-media-in-the-covid-19-era-tickets-104118866332
2020.06.09 Turning Chaos into Control Through the Pandemic Online https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/turning-chaos-control-through-pandemic-online
2020.06.10 CWRT Jumpstart - Action Planning for Success Workshop (Online) Rugby Online https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/cwrt-jumpstart-action-planning-success-workshop-online-rugby
2020.06.16 WEBINAR - How to write press releases in the Covid-19 era Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/webinar-how-to-write-press-releases-in-the-covid-19-era-tickets-104119389898
2020.06.17 Selling for Engineers/Scientists Webinar Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/selling-for-engineersscientists-webinar-tickets-96643424083
2020.06.17 Winning and Retaining Customers Webinar Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/winning-and-retaining-customers-webinar-tickets-95824400361
2020.06.19 Developing Great Networking and Negotiating Skills Workshop Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/developing-great-networking-and-negotiating-skills-workshop-tickets-93939069285
2020.06.23 WEBINAR - Social Media and Covid-19 Online https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/webinar-social-media-and-covid-19-tickets-104119917476
2020.09.09 Rail Live 2020 - Sept 9-10 QRTC https://www.raillive.org.uk/ 
2020.09.18 The Game Fair - Sept 18-20 Ragley Hall https://thegamefair.org/ 
2020.10.21 Battery Technology Show - Oct 21-22 Ricoh Arena https://www.batterytechnologyshow.com/ 
2020.10.21 TAAS Technology Conference - Oct 21-22 University of Warwick https://taas.technology/ 
2020.12.02 Vehicle Electrification Expo - Dec 2-3 NAEC https://ve-expo.com/ 
2020.20.05 COVID Secure in the Workplace  Online https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/coronavirusbacktoworkguidance

News in Brief

A round-up of News-in-Brief from the region...

Region's export growth begins to retun

Global exporting from Coventry and Warwickshire is starting to return to pre Covid-19 levels for some companies, it has been revealed. The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce has said that, after a temporary dip in requests for processing export documentation when the lockdown was announced, it has experienced a significant revival in the past week: https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/coventry-and-warwickshire-exporters-seeing-some-markets-improve/

Local OEM car-makers announce production restart dates

Car giant Jaguar Land Rover is to gradually resume production at two of its UK plants in May amid "robust" guidelines to support a return to work. The move follows luxury car-maker Aston Martin Lagonda's May 5th reopening of its South Wales factory, which builds the new DBX SUV. Sports cars at Gaydon are on hold for the moment, although limited PPE production for the NHS continues: https://www.itv.com/news/2020-04-23/jaguar-land-rover-and-aston-martin-to-restart-production/

Major new battery technology show moves to December

The Battery Cells & Systems Expo and Vehicle Electrification Expo and their co-located events The Advanced Materials Show and Ceramics UK have been put back to 2nd & 3rd December 2020. The shows will take place at NAEC at Stoneleigh Park, Kenilworth: https://batterysystemsexpo.com/battery-cells-systems-expo-and-vehicle-electrification-expo-will-now-take-place-on-2nd-3rd-december-2020-stoneleigh-uk/

Bedworth Dynamo secures major investment

A local manufacturer responsible for producing fully electric Hackney Carriages – approved by Transport for London - has secured a £1.25m loan from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund and Maven Capital Partners. It will enable Dynamo to scale up production, recruiting and training 50 new employees: https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2040477-electric-taxi%c2%a0manufacturer-to-recruit-50-staff-following-1.25m-loan?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WestMidlands_6th_May_2020_Daily

Former Daimler factory re-engineered as Creative Hub

A £2.4m creative hub is to be built in Coventry - the first purpose-built and collaborative art production facility in the city. The Daimler Powerhouse, all that remains of the UK’s first volume car factory opened in 1896, is to be transformed into a major centre to provide dedicated spaces for artists and resident creative companies: https://www.insidermedia.com/news/midlands/2.4m-creative-hub-set-for-city

Very Light Rail project receives substantial boost

Coventry’s Very Light Rail project, which is being developed by WMG at the University of Warwick and TDI International of Stratford-upon-Avon, has secured further development funding of £1.5m from West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). The money will support the development of low-cost track for the light rail carriages already in development: https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/coventrys-light-rail-project-secures-1-5-million-research-funding/

 Rugby’s Quartzelec reports strong financial results

Turnover and pre-tax profits increased at Rugby-based electrical engineering company Quartzinvest, the parent company of Quartzelec, which works with the likes of the Royal Navy and the NHS. During its latest financial year, it has reported a turnover of £76.1m for the 12 months to 30 September 2019, up from £65.8m: https://www.insidermedia.com/news/midlands/results-rise-at-electrical-engineering-giant?utm_source=westmidlands_newsletter&utm_campaign=westmidlands_news_tracker&utm_medium=business_article

Technology company secures investment

FireAngel Safety Technology Group plc, based at University of Warwick Science Park, and one of Europe’s leading developers and suppliers of home safety products, has raised £6.1m for further R&D into connected alarm systems: https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/fireangel-safety-technology-fundraise-secures-6-million/

Queen's Awards recognise Leamington and Bedworth companies' export excellence

Leamington Spa’s innovative driveline specialists Drive Systems Design and Bedworth’s Arrowsmith Engineering are among the local Warwickshire companies to be recognised recently in the Queens Awards for International Trade.: https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/export-boom-lands-queens-award-for-arrowsmith-engineering/

Games for Carers launched to thank NHS staff

The UK games industry has launched a major initiative, Games for Carers, to thank frontline NHS staff for their inspirational work during the Covid-19 crisis. More than 85,000 games across a wide range of genres, age ratings and platforms have been donated by the industry for NHS workers to download free: https://ukie.org.uk/news/2020/04/games-carers-uk-games-industry-unites-say-thank-you-our-nhs-heroes

Screen-industry body to support the growth of film, TV and games development sector

Create Central has been awarded £1million through the BFI’s National Cluster Growth Fund using National Lottery money to deliver a long term growth plan specifically to meet the needs of the West Midlands’ screen businesses: https://www.cwlep.com/news/investment-screen-industry-body-support-growth-west-midlands-film-tv-and-games-sector

West Midlands faces major COVID impacts

According to UK Powerhouse, a report by Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr), the West Midlands has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus lockdown, with GVA estimated to be falling in the region by 40% or £245m a day: https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2040480-west-midlands-one-of-biggest-victims-of-covid-19-lockdown?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WestMidlands_6th_May_2020_Daily

Large Nuneaton housing site sold

A development site in Warwickshire with planning permission for 850 homes has been sold in an eight-figure deal. Land at Callendar Farm, in Nuneaton, was sold to Taylor Wimpey and Jelson Homes: https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/warwickshire-development-site-sold-in-major-eight-figure-deal/

Rugby Retail Park sale stalls

Rugby’s Elliott's Field Retail Park is among nine sites owned by Hammerson that were part of a £400m sale that has fallen through: https://www.insidermedia.com/news/national/retail-parks-deal-worth-400m-collapses?utm_source=westmidlands_newsletter&utm_campaign=westmidlands_news_tracker&utm_medium=property_article

Queensberry appointed for Nuneaton town centre redevelopment

Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council has appointed Queensberry as the development partner for part of its plan to regenerate Nuneaton’s town centre. Queensberry will help deliver the Abbey Street part of the Transforming Nuneaton initiative, one of 12 key sites identified in the town centre for development: https://www.egi.co.uk/news/council-appoints-queensberry-for-nuneaton-regeneration-scheme/

 ChamberLive launched by local Chamber

The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce has launched ChamberLIVE, which will bring together members and also hear from expert speakers during the period when face-to-face events are not possible: https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/coventry-warwickshire-chamber-launches-online-networking/

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