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Supporting recovery as lockdown restrictions lift?

We got to do something quite marvellous on Easter weekend. We spent the day with our grown-up sons outdoors and well wrapped up when the sun went in, but it was lush just what the doctor ordered.

We caught up on all the things we have missed, and of course, the conversation shifted to memories of great nights out. We soon realised that every memory involves eating out in places we have loved; and as they both have their own hospitality businesses, we of course talked about them getting back to what they love most.

The apple does not fall from the tree in this case; I loved working in hospitality and was in senior position for a large hotel chain for many years, and then moved over to Operations Manager at Earls Court Exhibition Centre before it became a housing estate of course.

In the day job, I have been in many meetings over all the lockdowns about how we support businesses. Of course, it’s what the BEC does, and it’s great to work in partnership with Barking and Dagenham Council, Be First and other partners, to ensure that we are all on the same page and delivering as much support as possible.

The grant system has not been easy for businesses to negotiate, and after the first grant, the decision from Government to this being discretionary, has meant that every local authority has been able to tailor support to the businesses most affected. However, behind the system inside the council, this has been a logistical nightmare in terms of making the payments, as it is linked to the business rates system. So, all sorts of technical wizardry were needed to make this happen. Hats off to our friends in the Business Rates team who have absolutely worked their socks off to ensure payments went out timely and to genuine businesses in need.

So, what are we doing next? Well, Barking and Dagenham does not have a huge night-time economy, and retail has been dwindling for some years. And of course, this last year with multiple lockdowns, existing customers have moved to online delivery.  However, we have a working group called reimagining high streets; now in Barking and Dagenham, we do not have a traditional high street. We have two town centres and a lot of smaller parades of shops, ‘neighbourhood retail’ as I like to call it.

There are big plans for Barking and Dagenham, film studios, the three markets of London, a food market, a new shopping centre in Barking Town Centre with spaces for bars and restaurants all exciting stuff in the pipeline. But for now, we need to focus on our resident businesses who are still around, and now that they can re-open, they are going to need help, lots of help.

So, we have come together as partners to provide a retail, hospitality and leisure support programme which will give any business in Barking and Dagenham one-to-one business support and bespoke programme to revitalise their business. For some, this will be restarting what they did before. Some of them will need to rethink their business model completely in line with the change in customer expectations.

We are proud and delighted to be working on this scheme, and if you want to find out more then follow this link: https://beccic.co.uk/recoveryprogramme/

Finally, please don’t feel obliged, but if you want to listen to my son talk about his journey to owning his own restaurant business, then click here: https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episode/et0g76/