Grantham Business Club's Susan Swinburn, Journal editor Marie Bond and MP Caroline Johnson look back over a mixed 2020
Susan Swinburn, Grantham Business Club and Prosperity 4 Grantham
This year has been difficult for our local businesses, without a doubt; as a nation, we have not seen anything like this since the Second World War that has affected so many businesses and communities.
Business has been looking for leadership and consistent guidance through these troubled times but is left feeling out on a limb.
Lack of clarity of local, national and international trading regulations continues to be an obstacle, particularly in light of Brexit. This has prevented businesses being able to make firm plans.
Current Government pronouncements indicate that we can expect at least another six months of difficulties.
The furlough scheme has been important for local businesses but it does not address the fixed costs a business has to endure. People newly self-employed and sole traders have not been accommodated in the Government schemes, leaving many struggling.
Businesses are hopeful there will be further rate relief grants next year.
Café culture was hit hard – except for the few determined business who have been agile enough to adapt their offer. There is concern for pubs that are forced to remain closed.
This, in turn, has an impact on our transport infrastructure provided by taxi firms who rely on night-time and weekend trade to sustain the self-employed drivers who do not meet the criteria for Government grants or furlough.
We have seen some new businesses take up empty shops, which is encouraging, but have lost long-standing businesses.
There are some positives. We have seen businesses taking control of their destiny and building their own online community through the Prosperity 4 Grantham Facebook group that, in just a few weeks, has created a groundswell of activity.
The group has proved its value by turning likes in to sales – not clickbait.
We aim to foster further initiatives in the New Year.
Marie Bond, Grantham Journal editor
This year has handed each and every one of us a kick in the gut, but there have also been plenty of reasons to smile and feel uplifted.
Where Covid has kicked us down there has been a tsunami of community spirit.
Neighbours have helped each other out, volunteers have provided food and supplies to people in need and there has been an outpouring of support for organisations like Grantham Foodbank to allow it to help the most vulnerable in their times of need.
Rainbows were placed in windows and the town and villages held ‘lockdown rockdowns’ in a bid to put smiles on the faces of children when their schools were suddenly closed and their worlds turned upside down.
As I write this I’ll admit I’m feeling quite emotional. It has been incredibly tough to report on people who were taken by this virus and the devastating effects that it has had on our community, our local businesses and our town centre.
But on the flip-side it has been an absolute pleasure to bring to you all the good news, to share small acts of kindness, to print your lockdown pictures and give readers a platform to give their thanks and have their say.
In some ways many of us will want to see the back of 2020 and hope that 2021 will be a much happier year.
However, there is so much I hope we’ll take forward, such as being able to enjoy the little things, cherish what we have and recognise the positive impact the lockdowns had on the environment.
On behalf of the Journal team, I wish all our readers and advertisers a happy and healthy New Year.
Caroline Johnson, MP, Sleaford and North Hykeham
2020 has been a year like no other. I know this has been an incredibly challenging year for everybody.
The disruption caused by the pandemic has touched every corner of our society.
As we look forward to the New Year there is reason to be hopeful. The worst days of the virus are now behind us.
Across the country thanks to the people’s hard work and the amazing professionalism shown by our key workers, we are seeing the rate of infections fall once again.
With the announcement of a vaccine being approved we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, and a time beyond lockdowns, restrictions and social distancing. Through a nationwide vaccination campaign, by the spring we can hope for a return to a way of life as close to normal as possible.
While we are at a turning point in our fight against the virus our focus must be on how to build back better, how to save not just lives but livelihoods.
We need to deliver an economy which is stronger, more sustainable and more resilient. A key part of this will be the Government’s levelling up agenda, ensuring rural areas such as Lincolnshire gets their fair share of investment.
The £110 million promised to complete the ring road around Lincoln is a good start and I look forward to working with the Government to get the economy moving again.
I wish you all a prosperous and happy New Year.