PRCA

PRCA Confidence Tracker shows global optimism increasing

Latest results from the PRCA Confidence Tracker show increasing optimism for the future among public relations leaders across the world.

The single-question study conducted by Question and Retain surveyed over 400 PRCA and ICCO members to determine levels of confidence for recovery considering the impact of the COVID-19 on the industry at large.

The UK had the highest level of confidence, as 93% of participants reported feeling quite confident or very confident about the future of their organisation.

For PRCA SEA and MENA members, the figure fell to 84% and to 54% for survey participants in Latin America.

82% of ICCO members reported feeling quite confident or very confident about the future.

‘PR practitioners around the world have weathered the pandemic storm successfully, and now face the future with steadily-increasing confidence,’ said PRCA director general Francis Ingham of the results. ‘If 2020 was a year of change and survival for our industry, then 2021 will be a year of resurgence.’

Find out more about the PRCA Confidence Tracker on the website and catch up on previous findings from the initiative here.

How PR agencies can support local businesses

Lessons from lockdown… How PR agencies can support local businesses

This is a guest post from Honest Communications founder Holly Daulby offering tips on how PR agencies can support local businesses in the current climate.

The need for strong, effective communication in the past year has been greater than ever. With small, local businesses seeking ways to communicate with existing customers, while still reaching new ones, there have been ample opportunities for PR agencies to lend a hand.

1. Be there to help

As part of lending a helping hand, be sure to offer value and utilise your experience and channels to give free advice to help others.

When lockdown first happened, and the world was filled with so much uncertainty and the future looked bleak for so many local businesses, we took to our blog and social media channels to offer advice. One article which proved popular was our top 5 tips for communicating in a crisis, which we even threw social media advertising budget behind, to really help reach as many people as possible who might need some free PR advice.

2. Be genuine, not opportunistic

Overt selling doesn’t sit well with people, they see straight through it. Companies trying to push sales, and not reading the room, look ignorant and self-serving – and no one wants that!

Don’t reach out to people to take advantage of their desperation, reach out to people because you want to help them turn things around.

That’s the key. Help. Not sell.

Be genuine in your reasoning for doing so too.

Authentic communication will always shine through. People don’t want cynical, opportunistic companies trying to sell them things they don’t need, particularly during a global crisis. Profiteering from a pandemic isn’t a good look.
The societal shift that has occurred over the past twelve months has seen communities come together to support each other. What resonates now is raw, honest communication to create a more favourable perception of trustworthy, helpful businesses.

3. Be adaptable and be there for your clients

Among so many other things, 2020 taught us that things don’t go to plan. You might have a client activity plan signed off and lined up but you always need to have the flexibility to adapt.

Staying in regular contact with your clients is vital to stay abreast of the changes in their business. Being there to support your clients will not only show you care but will also give you a deeper insight which will help your work be more informed.

Going beyond your normal remit too will also garner favour and clients will appreciate it in the long run. Offer your wider marketing insight and ask how you can support. After all, PR is about building relationships.

4. Broaden your service offering

So many businesses have shown ingenuity, resilience and agility by tweaking what they offer.

Small, local businesses might not be able to afford ongoing retainers or perhaps aren’t in the position they once were. Don’t let money get in the way. Think beyond your core services, and instead think about helping. Find out what people need and match that with your skillset.

For example, as PR professionals, writing comes more naturally to us so you might be able to help local businesses with their case studies, copywriting projects and newsletters. Work on an ad hoc basis to offer help when it’s needed instead of seeking ongoing retainers. We all know the benefits that retainers can have for brand building but they aren’t always possible.

5. Collaborate

If there are any positives to come out of this pandemic, people pulling together is one of them. Now, more than ever, people realise they need each other, and we can see how interconnected everything is. The same is true of businesses – it’s a tough time for everyone and offering a (metaphorical) helping hand where you can, will be appreciated. If you can find any opportunities to collaborate and combine forces with other businesses, it might help you to get back up to speed more quickly.
Here at Honest, in the past year, we’ve joined forces with a local photographer and a local brand consultant. Not only has this helped other local businesses, but it’s also allowed us to offer more to our clients to be able to further help them. Win-win!

In all of this, the main thing to remember, which should always be the case– pandemic or not – is that genuine, honest communications will prevail. After all, honesty is always the best policy.

For more on how PR can support local businesses, read our previous guest posts from White Rose PR’s Louise Pinchin on Supporting Local Business with Local PR, Gallium Ventures’ Heather Delaney on The Power of Community and Spike’s Andre Gwillium on How to Implement a PR Strategy for a Local Charity.

Economy opening

Budget 2021 Speculation: rebooting the economy and protecting jobs

The economic outlook for 2021 is highly uncertain. Having started the new year with a renewed lockdown and an economy that shrank 9.9% in 2020, a stronger than expected vaccine roll-out offers hope for a recovery in the months ahead. The upcoming Budget on 3 March will be critical in terms of shaping the strength and nature of that recovery from this Covid-induced crisis.

The Chancellor has been under pressure to address two main issues: he has immediate decisions to make over many aspects of the emergency support packages that are due to expire soon, as well as a need to start looking at how to pay for the £394bn the UK is estimated to have borrowed in the past year.

Sunak warned that the Government could not ‘borrow our way out of any hole’. Speaking in the Commons after the third lockdown was announced, he warned that the public finances were ‘badly damaged and will need repair’. While the Chancellor has said that he wants to ‘balance the books’, the Government has also highlighted the ‘end to austerity’ for public spending. This suggests sizeable net tax rises will, at some point, be needed.

Many economists have warned the biggest risk to the economy in 2021 was that an ‘over-thrifty’ Chancellor would damage the recovery by tightening fiscal policy too early. According to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Citi Research, next month’s Budget should focus on securing the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, rather than trying to fix public finances. Similarly, former Chancellor Lord Darling has warned Rishi Sunak against ‘choking off’ the Covid recovery with higher taxes.

However, HM Treasury has announced it will publish a range of tax consultations three weeks after the Budget, a move some have suggested will allow the Government to announce a ‘good news’ agenda focusing on economic recovery while delaying decisions on potential tax rises until later in the year. Moreover, because of the slow path to reopening the economy announced on 22 February, it has been reported that the Chancellor has been forced to delay decisions on tax increases until he delivers a financial statement in the autumn.

It seems that Treasury officials are examining plans for major stimulus to the economy and are shelving plans for tax rises. Sources now say the Budget is likely to echo Sunak’s autumn ‘plan for jobs’ and be dominated by measures to protect jobs and shore up support for shuttered sectors.

Outside of fixing public finances, as already mentioned, the Chancellor has decisions to take on the support measures introduced in response to the pandemic, which are set to expire shortly. Many, including Paul Johnson at the IFS, have argued that these support measures should be extended for as long as restrictions are in place and phased out gradually as restrictions are phased out rather than coming to an abrupt halt. Budget decisions that need to be made include:

  • £20 per week boost to Universal Credit. While there is a case for maintaining the uplift and extending it to legacy benefits, if it is not to be made permanent it should be at least phased out over several months. Members of the Work and Pensions Committee argued that the Chancellor must maintain for another year ‘at the very least’ the £20 uplift. According to The Times, Boris Johnson is expected to support Sunak by backing plans to only extend the £20 increase in Universal Credit for six months, rather than a year.
  • Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. Britain’s most influential business groups and the trade union movement warned the Chancellor of mass unemployment unless he extends the schemes. Unemployment could reach 5% or 2.5m people by the end of the year if the job schemes end in April. IFS warned that the schemes should not be extended much beyond the point at which most restrictions are eased, otherwise it will actually choke off recovery. A much more tightly targeted version may be needed where activity is more restricted for longer: perhaps the aviation and airport industry for example.

    The Daily Telegraph reports that self-employed workers may be offered a new wave of grants of up to £7,500 through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, before the scheme ends in May. Labour and members of the Treasury Committee have also urged the Chancellor to open his support scheme for the self-employed; to the 200,000 people who only have a 2019/20 tax return.

  • Business rate holiday and VAT deferrals and cuts. An extension to the Chancellor’s business rates holiday and VAT reduction would create tax cuts of £9.4bn and £3.5bn respectively in 2021-22, a total of £12.9bn. According to the TaxPayer’s Alliance this could be key to reviving the economy, boosting the hospitality sector and saving summer holidays. On a similar note, IPPR published new analysis which concludes that more than half a million UK employers are at risk of collapse in the spring without the extension of business support, as cash reserves fall ‘perilously low’. According to The Daily Telegraph, the Chancellor is reportedly set to announce further VAT and business rate cuts.

Alongside the existing measures, the Labour party suggested converting the Bounce Back Loans scheme into a ‘student-loan style’ arrangement, so that businesses only have to start repayments when they are making money. Labour also called for the establishment of a British Business Recovery Agency that would manage the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme and Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme in order to create terms that secure the future of businesses, including employee ownership, preference shares and subordinated debt.

Labour also proposed the introduction of Covid recovery bonds which could raise billions of pounds for the National Infrastructure Bank and would give financial security to millions, many of whom have saved for the first time. Keir Starmer also explained how he would directly help to create 100,000 small businesses across the country over the next five years by boosting funding for start-up loans. Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds also demanded U-turns on the council tax hike being forced on councils and the public sector pay freeze.

The Resolution Foundation said that Chancellor Rishi Sunak should combine a £30bn extension of emergency COVID-19 support with £70bn in additional stimulus. This should include a £9bn voucher scheme focused on supporting Britain’s high streets and retailers.

The Daily Mail suggested that Treasury officials are examining plans for major stimulus to the economy. This could include vouchers for high street shoppers and lower alcohol duty for restaurants and pubs, and perhaps a return of last summer’s Eat Out to Help Out.

Vuelio Political clients will receive the Budget Summary on 3 March. 

PRFest 2020

June’s PRFest to focus on ‘the sustainable future of PR’

This year’s PRFest, taking place 14-18 June, will explore the sustainable future of the PR industry with the five pillars of The Next Generation, Earth/Planet, Corporate Social Innovation, Work and Society.

The global event for the PR community has been reimagined for 2021 with a 12-strong steering group working alongside PRFest founder and Aura PR director Laura Sutherland. With an estimated timeline for the easing of lockdown restrictions now put forward by the Government, a finalised format for the event is currently being considered.

‘The past year has been a whirlwind and has forced people and businesses to adapt very quickly,’ said Laura.

‘Professional development can’t stop. It’s a massive part of my own values. What’s also a priority is the work to make public relations a better recognised strategic business role. As PR and communication professionals, our role is to advise and consult with businesses, demonstrating our intelligence and understanding. The challenge is that many still don’t approach PR and communication with a strategic mindset and too often with tactics first.

‘If we have the conversation about what our industry might look like ten years from now, we can all hopefully put measures in place to ensure we work towards this.’

Steering group member and Campaign Collective founder member Simon Francis sees significant changes coming up for PR over the next ten years and a need to prepare with events like PRFest: ‘We need to take a long view of the challenges facing our industry and wider society.

‘It’s great to see PRFest bringing together perspectives on the biggest issues from around the world with fresh perspectives from the next generation of PR talent.’

Fellow steering group member and Forrester UK PR manager Katy Branson agrees and sees resilience in the community: ‘Amidst the challenges of fake news, diverging content platforms and future technologies, we are an industry capable of morphing to embrace new ideas and opportunities. The next generation pillar will explore how these challenges are changing the role of communication, what it means for a career in PR and the opening of new, exciting horizons for our future leaders.’

Early bird tickets for this year’s PRFest will go on sale on 30 March for one month.

Find PRFest announcements and updates on the websiteLaura Sutherland can be contacted with requests, questions and ideas.

Weekly Economy Summary

COVID-19: Weekly Economy Summary – 25 February

The Economy Summary is part of our Weekly COVID-19 Bulletin, sent every Thursday. You can sign up to receive your copy here.

The rate of unemployment in the UK rose to 5.1% in the three months to December, official figures showed this week. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 1.74m people were unemployed in the October to December period, up 454,000 from the same quarter in 2019. The figures show 726,000 fewer people are currently in payrolled employment than before the start of the pandemic, almost three-fifths of this fall, 425,000, has come from those aged under-25.

A report from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research has shown an explosion in the number of people ‘living in destitution’, putting pressure on Chancellor Rishi Sunak not to abandon support schemes in next month’s budget.

The report has shown the total has risen from 197,400 to 421,500 households in 2020, suggesting the crisis would worsen if the Chancellor ends the furlough scheme or cuts Universal Credit. It also showed stark regional disparities and warned the official unemployment statistics are failing to reflect reality.

‘As a result of lockdowns, levels of destitution seem to be rising across the country,’ Professor Jagjit Chadha, the NIESR’s director commented. He added: ‘The kind of unemployment numbers we’ve currently got seem to be underreporting the true level of unemployment. Given the level of activity we’ve had in the economy – the extent to which it’s fallen – unemployment could rise to at least 8% or 9%, or even further.’

Looking ahead to the Budget on 3 March, Keir Starmer has called for the introduction of Covid recovery bonds, which could raise billions of pounds for the National Infrastructure Bank and would give financial security to millions, many of whom have saved for the first time. Keir Starmer also explained how he would directly help to create 100,000 small businesses across the country over the next five years by boosting funding for start-up loans.

During the Labour party’s first opposition day debate this week, Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds demanded U-turns on the planned cut to Universal Credit, the council tax hike being forced on councils and the public sector pay freeze.

During the second opposition day debate, Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson, called on the Government to support businesses and individuals still struggling as a result of the coronavirus crisis in the forthcoming budget by:

  • Extending business rates relief for at least another six months
  • Extending the temporary 5% reduced rate of VAT for three months after restrictions are lifted or for another six months, whichever is later
  • Helping British businesses struggling under the burden of Government-guaranteed debt by ensuring that small businesses can defer paying loans back until they are growing again
  • Extending and reforming the furlough scheme so that it lasts while restrictions are in place and demand is significantly reduced
  • Immediately confirming that the fourth Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grant will be set at 80% of pre-coronavirus crisis profits
  • Extending eligibility to that scheme to include anyone with a 2019-20 tax return and fixing the gaps in coronavirus support schemes to support those who have been excluded from the beginning of the crisis

The Resolution Foundation think tank published new research that calls for a £100bn Budget package to boost Britain’s economic recovery from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The think tank says that Chancellor Rishi Sunak should combine a £30bn extension of emergency COVID-19 support with £70bn in additional stimulus in order to kickstart the economy’s recovery, and calls for a series of measures including a retraining and job support package, extending Universal Credit, an £18bn green investment scheme, and a £9bn voucher scheme focused on supporting Britain’s high streets and retailers.

Weekly Health Summary

Covid-19: Weekly Health Summary – 25 February

The Health Summary is part of our Weekly COVID-19 Bulletin, sent every Thursday. You can sign up to receive your copy here.

The Prime Minister announced his roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions on Monday. The four-step plan would see schools reopen to all pupils on 8 March, non-essential shops, outdoor dining and beer gardens open no earlier than 12 April, and indoor mixing, drinking and dining, hotel visits and limited crowds at sporting events to return from 17 May at the earliest. If all goes to plan, all the final restrictions, including on nightclubs and mass-attendance events like football matches could be lifted from 21 June.

The Prime Minister said that these ‘cautious’ easements plans would be based on ‘data not dates’ with assessments of the easing of restrictions based on four areas:

  1. Vaccine deployment
  2. Evidence showing that vaccines are effective in reducing hospitalisations and death
  3. Infection rates and hospital capacity
  4. New variants of concern.

He told the House of Commons: ‘The end really is in sight and a wretched year will give way to a spring and a summer that will be very different and incomparably better than the picture we see around us today.’

Leader of the opposition Kier Starmer said that this current lockdown has to be the last, highlighting that this is the third time the country has come out of a national lockdown. He said that the success of the vaccine rollout will be essential, while track, trace and isolate must also be working effectively. He proposed a £500 payment for workers so that they can isolate if necessary, as well as better protection for school children and teachers.

NHS Providers welcomed the cautious approach to releasing restrictions. Chief executive Chris Hopson said: ‘While the cautious approach outlined in today’s Roadmap won’t be fast enough for some, history has sadly taught us that rushing headfirst into lifting lockdown leads only to rapid reimposition, tragic loss of life and avoidable patient harm.’

Hopson also called for continued momentum behind the vaccination programme and an effective strategy to rapidly identify and control future outbreaks from variant strains. NHS Confederation’s chief executive Danny Mortimer echoed this point, arguing that there needs to be more clarity on the four tests laid out by the Government and effective public messaging, warning, ‘we can cannot afford a fourth national wave of COVID-19, which would risk even greater damage to a fragile and tired health service’.

The Health Foundation said that easing of lockdown should be used as an opportunity to Build Back Better: ‘As we see the light at the end of the tunnel, the Government needs to ensure that no one is left behind, particularly the most vulnerable. Longer term there must now be a major Government focus on eradicating the deep-seated health inequalities that the pandemic has exposed.’

In other news, the Health and Social Care Secretary came under fire this week for claiming that the NHS did not run out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the peak of the pandemic last year. This comes after a judge last week found that the Health Secretary had breached his legal obligation to publish details within 30 days of PPE contracts being signed. Hancock has since claimed that details were published late because his Whitehall staff were focused on ensuring that there was no national shortage of PPE.

Speaking in the House of Commons Shadow Health Secretary highlighted that there were instance off PPE shortages, he said: ‘The National Audit Office reported on it, we saw nurses resorting to bin bags and curtains for makeshift PPE, hundreds of NHS staff died.’ He called for greater scrutiny of the PPE contracts and any money to be recovered on contracts which produced unusable PPE.

It was announced that people with severe learning disabilities would be given greater priority in the Vaccines Delivery Plan. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) confirmed that all those on the GP learning disability register would be invited to receive a vaccine as part of cohort 6. This is because of their perceived risk to Covid-19, due to issues including that individuals in the group are more likely to have underlying health issues and that some people with learning disabilities are more exposed to Covid-19 if they live in residential care.

Responding to the decision, Disability Right’s UK said: ‘People with learning disabilities are six times more likely to die from coronavirus than people without learning disabilities. It is hugely welcome news that everyone with learning disabilities can now be urgently protected by vaccination.’ The Learning Disability charity Mencap also welcomed the ‘fantastic news’.

Diversity in Action A Leader Like Me

A Leader Like Me to launch Diversity in Action conference

A Leader Like Me, the community to help women and non-binary people of colour progress in their careers, will hold its Diversity in Action conference on 23 March.

Aimed at those in the industry who want to create a more diverse and inclusive culture, industry experts speaking during the event will share experience and strategies on topics including building anti-racist organisations, looking beyond disability and finding and amplifying often overlooked stories.

Speakers joining from across the globe include Sanchez Tennis & Associates founder and CEO Anita L Sanchez, Northern Power Women CEO & Founder Simone Roche, CultureShift CEO Gemma McCall, Gallagher MD Ben Reynolds, Blackbelt Media LLC founder Adena J. White, Hassell Inclusion CEO/Founder Jonathan Hassell, Pride at Work Canada manager of programs Jade Pichette and MESH Diversity co-founder & head of behavioural sciences Dr. Leeno Karumanchery. Opening remarks will come from Chair Priya Bates.

Co-founded by Inner Strength Communication Inc’s Bates and CommsRebel’s Advita Patel, A Leader Like Me aims to empower, build confidence and give hope to womxn working their way up in the PR and comms industry.

Find our more about the event and sign up here on the A Leader Like Me website. For more on A Leader Like Me, read our interview with co-founder Advita Patel.

GWPR Annual Index

Global Women in PR to hold 24-hour mentoring event for International Women’s Day

Global Women in PR will celebrate International Women’s Day on Monday 8 March with 24 hours of live speed mentoring.

Over 100 GWPR members, including senior-level practitioners across the global PR and communications industry, will provide advice and guidance in 30-minute sessions with over 200 mid-career PR women.

Those with a minimum of five years of experience in PR are invited to participate as mentees and can apply by completing this form.

‘The response to this initiative has exceeded all our expectations,’ said GWPR International Chair Cornelia Kunze. ‘So many women working in senior roles in PR and Communications from all over the world have come forward to support us – it has been incredible. It clearly demonstrates that there is a real passion to redress the balance in leadership in the PR industry and we are now motivated to follow up this IWD mentoring activity with an ongoing international mentoring programme.’

GWPR’s 2020 survey found that the most important way to break down barriers for women in PR – who make up two-thirds of the industry, yet are under-represented in boardrooms – is to have more senior women as role models. With this mentoring initiative, GWPR hopes to inspire the next generation of women in PR.

More information on the upcoming event can be found on the GWPR website.

PRCA

PRCA adds to its Board of Directors

The PRCA has welcomed Havas Just:: chief executive officer Nicole Josh and SEC Newgate UK executive chairman Mark Glover to its Board of Directors.

These latest appointments were approved at 22 February’s Board meeting and follow the addition of Rob Colmer as vice-chairman in mid-January.

Yost has worked in senior management roles across companies including BCW, Ogilvy and Porter Novelli. Of joining the board, Yost said:

‘I am pleased to be joining the PRCA Board at a time when we need to support each other more than ever. Challenges around mental health, inclusion, flexibility of working and talent pipeline are in sharp focus. I believe we can do better as an industry and learn a lot from one another.’

Glover, who was last year’s recipient of the PRCA Outstanding Contribution in Public Affairs award, said:

‘I am delighted to be joining the PRCA Board at a critical time for the industry. I particularly welcome the work the PRCA’s Public Affairs Board has done in addressing transparency across lobbying in the UK and the support the PRCA is providing for agencies impacted by COVID. As SEC Newgate UK is now one of the most significant agencies in the UK it is great that we can contribute at a board level to our industry’s trade association.’

Francis Ingham believes the new members of the board ‘represent the very best of our industry and I’ve no doubt their combined experience and expertise will play a significant role in our return to growth in 2021.’

Find more about these latest appointments on the PRCA website.

Covid-19 vaccine with syringe

Budget 2021 Speculation: supporting the vaccine rollout and boosting the health and social care sector

The Spring Budget will likely set out what the Autumn Spending Review of last year attempted to achieve: support the health sector in its immediate efforts to reduce the spread of Covid-19 transmission and then help the wider sector recover from the battering of the pandemic.

Another coronavirus wave later, the Budget needs to support the continued roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine and NHS Test and Trace. As it is hoped that the current lockdown is the last, the Budget should lay forward plans to drive improvement across health and social care following on from the pandemic. This imperative given the wide impacts Covid-19 has had on NHS health services and social care.

Measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic have proven costly during the past year. The controversial NHS Test and Trace scheme has seen its budget for 2020-21 grow over time, now standing at £22bn. Despite initial concerns that the system was only having a ‘marginal impact’ in reducing Covid-19 transmission, figures in recent months are more promising. More than three million people were tested during a single week in February and NHS Test and Trace successfully reached 87% of those who received a positive test result, and 93.5% of their contacts.

However, even with this progress, the scheme is far from perfect. Giving evidence to the Science and Technology Committee in early February, Dido Harding, Chair of NHS Test and Trace, said an estimated 20,000 people a day who are asked to isolate were not doing so fully.

With testing and contact tracing expected to be used for the country to come out of lockdown during spring, it seems likely that political focus will once again switch to NHS Test and Trace, with long term commitment to the scheme essential to keep the country out of lockdown.

The roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine will need continued momentum from the Treasury. The Government has already invested over £300m into manufacturing a successful vaccine. This includes securing 100m doses of the Oxford/AstraZenca vaccine and 40m doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which are both currently in deployment. However, the emergence of Covid-19 variants across the world could hinder the effectiveness of these vaccines, and new vaccines may need to be developed and deployed in the future.

The Health Secretary suggested earlier this month that new treatments and vaccines would play an important role in turning Covid-19 from a pandemic into another illness that we have to live with, like we do with flu.

Aside from the pandemic response, the upcoming budget must support the wider health sector. With many non-Covid treatments cancelled and delayed over the past few months, the think tank Reform has suggested that 10m patients could be on an NHS waitlist by April 2021.

Large amounts of funding have already been earmarked for NHS services, including a £3bn NHS recovery package announced in the Spending Review last autumn. £1bn of this was allocated to support the NHS in tackling the elective care backlog and support hospitals to cut long waits for treatment by carrying out extra checks, scans and additional operations or procedures.

It is likely that this support will have to be expanded in the upcoming Budget to account for the pressures faced by the health sector in recent months, which saw hospitals severely stretched by unprecedented levels of Covid-19 hospital admissions, almost double the number seen during the first wave in spring 2020.

Cancer Research recently argued the sustained disruption of the pandemic has ‘left a deep rift in cancer care’, with 40,000 fewer people starting cancer treatment across the UK last year. Meanwhile, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has highlighted that tens of thousands of potentially life-saving operations have been cancelled or delayed during the pandemic. BHF has called for the Chancellor to announce an additional £10bn investment this year to deliver the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan as well as invest in public health programmes.

NHS Providers has appealed for support to tackle the growing and long-term pressures arising from Covid-19, as well as funding to drive forward improvements in patient outcomes, quality and efficiency. Additionally, it has called for the Government to recognise the contribution to the pandemic response from NHS staff over the past year, with a pay rises and a workforce plan.

Social care cannot be forgotten in the upcoming Budget. When the Government published its White Paper on NHS reform earlier this month, it promised to publish separate proposals for social care later this year. It would be encouraging if the Budget could set out some of this essential long-term investment for the sector.

NHS Providers said that this is vital considering the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on social care. The Association of Directors of Adults Social Services also recently called for wide reform across social care including a commitment to long- term funding.

Vuelio Political clients will receive the Budget Summary on 3 March. 

How to Implement a PR Strategy for A Local Charity

How to Implement a PR Strategy for A Local Charity

This is a guest post from Andre Gwilliam, who specialises in Digital PR and Outreach for Digital marketing agency Spike, based in Leeds/London.

To implement a PR strategy for a local charity, there are several steps which will help ensure you successfully raise awareness of the cause, while also securing good local coverage.

More than ever before, it matters to do good things, not just for your clients, but for those who need it the most. This is one of the values we hold at Spike. This guest post will discuss how you can utilise and apply your skills in public relations to develop a local PR strategy for a charity of your choice.

Selecting a Charity

The first step in your PR strategy is to select a charity that is close to your heart. Consider then how you would like to raise the funds and what it is you actually want to do, which should be the core of your campaign.

Brainstorm, Plan and Motivate One Another
Creating a timeline with deadlines for your PR activity will help you to understand what tasks need completing and by when.

With mental health at the heart of our campaign, we at Spike decided that, throughout December, we would walk 2.5 million steps in 30 days as our fundraising campaign. Quite a feat! We recognised that getting active outdoors is a mood-lifter.

Leeds North and West Food Bank was the charity we selected; they put food on the tables of local families in need.

Building a Localised Media List

A targeted media list will help you achieve increase the chances of securing local PR results. Before diving into which publications will want to share your news, consider the following:

1. Your charity’s focus – it’s not just your audience that matters. Understanding who your charity helps, can give you a greater understanding of news placement opportunities.
2. Utilise the PR and SEO tools at your disposal – whether that’s through media monitoring or SEO tools like Ahrefs. Exploring the previous news your charity has been featured in can help form an important part of the research phase of building your media list.
3. Local news platforms specific to your area – make sure you search for new local placement opportunities in your area. For example, (as we are based in Leeds) the search term ‘raises funds for Leeds charity’, will bring up other publications discussing other local charity campaigns. This can help you build a relevant media list.

Keeping relevance at the forefront of your campaign can help you to achieve better rankings, traffic, engagement and backlinks.

Local Contacts, Media and Micro-publications

Write a press release for local media and micro-publication contacts who discuss relevant charity fundraising stories. Locals often have more readers than national daily publications so covering the basics by attaining a quote from your local charity can support your release and make it more newsworthy.

Your Stories Should Evoke Emotion

Part of your role in PR is to influence how people think and feel about a particular subject. Each time you write a press release and promote this to specific contacts within a particular industry, you are influencing how people think and feel so keep this in mind when writing your release.

Promoting Your Story Across Social Media Platforms

LinkedIn is a fantastic platform in helping you to drive campaign messaging by promoting your fundraising campaign which can support your story. Here at Spike, we believe in an integrated approach to using social media and PR to bolster campaigns as it is a great way to understand audiences. Once you have created your campaign, reaching out to local connections on LinkedIn can help you to share campaign updates and raise further awareness of the good things you are doing.

LinkedIn’s latest story feature, similar to other platforms, allows you to promote daily updates to your followers. You might experience both good and bad days in the campaign, but we believe the good and bad is important to share as it promotes honesty to your audience and shares your journey in a transparent way.

For more on supporting local businesses and organisations, check out previous guest posts from Gallium Ventures managing director and founder Heather Delaney on The Power of Community and White Rose PR director Louise Pinchin on Supporting Local Businesses with Local PR.

DCMS budget

Budget 2021 Speculation: supporting digital growth while saving culture and sport

The effects of Covid have created extensive issues that have decimated the creative sector and it now needs to be supported by the upcoming Budget. However, Covid has also scaled digitalisation across the UK and may prompt Chancellor Rishi Sunak to drive more funding towards the roll out of digital connectivity.

The creative sector is predominantly made up of freelance artists who have been badly affected because of lockdown measures. Many freelancers have been unable to find work due to cancellations of events, with some forced to retrain to find employment.

There have also been stark criticisms directed towards the Government as the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) did not cover those with jobs that involve moving from freelance contract to freelance contract on a short-term basis. This includes many people who work in creative industries, such as musicians. The Treasury Committee’s third report on the economic impact of coronavirus: ‘Gaps in Support and Economic Analysis’ stated that ‘ONS data indicates that 3% of all self-employed in the UK have become self-employed since April 2019, which, roughly estimated, suggests that around 150,000 newly self-employed are unlikely to be eligible for support under the SEISS.’

It is therefore essential that the upcoming spring Budget tackles this issue and in the words of Mel Stride MP: ‘the Chancellor must not forget those who have fallen through the gaps around previous support packages and must provide the necessary workforce support measures and economic plan for the self-employed.’

Another issue within the creative sector has been the complete cancellation of festivals and gigs. The flagship economic study by UK Music by Numbers revealed that before COVID-19, the UK music industry contributed £5.8bn to the UK economy, with live music making up £1.3bn of this and contributing to the employment of 34,000 people. As all these events were cancelled last year, this left a huge financial gap in takings for the industry, and prospects for events to go ahead this year look increasingly unlikely.

In a recent DCMS Committee evidence session, which focused on the future of UK music festivals, witness Sacha Lord, co-founder of Parklife and The Warehouse Project, spoke about necessary Government intervention that is needed for events to restart and go ahead this year, including the need for a Government-backed Coronavirus cancellation insurance scheme, an extension to the VAT rate reduction on tickets carrying on at 5% for the next three years, extension on business rate reliefs, and a ‘more nuanced, specified furlough scheme for specific industries, for festivals’ until events are fully running with 100% capacity.

These are all measures that could be introduced in some capacity in the upcoming Budget.

Committee chair Julian Knight has also called for the Government to address these issues, where he has emphasised the need to introduce a Government-backed Coronavirus cancellation insurance scheme, saying: ‘Insurance must be the first step in unlocking the huge contribution that festivals make to our economy, protecting not only the supply chains, but the musicians who rely on them for work’, and that ‘the industry says that without Government-backed insurance, many festivals and live music events just won’t happen because organisers can’t risk getting their fingers burnt for a second year.’

The upcoming spring budget provides the Government with the perfect opportunity to introduce this much needed measure.

Both of these issues have been highlighted by the Creative Industries Federation, which has set priorities it expects from the upcoming spring budget that include: extending the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme for as long as restrictions on work remain, urgently plugging the gaps in support for freelancers, extending the Job Retention Scheme, temporary business loans, grants and rate reliefs across all UK nations for as long as restrictions remain, introducing a Government-backed insurance scheme for live events, extending the VAT rate reduction on tickets beyond March 2021 and repurposing the Tradeshow Access Programme to support virtual, not just physical, events.

It also expects the Budget to reevaluate and boost funding towards digital connectivity, especially as COVID-19 emphasised the need to boost digital connectivity. The pandemic has forced the workforce towards remote working and has digitalised many aspects of society.

Focusing on digital connectivity, it is widely expected that the upcoming budget will replace the current Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme (RGC), which is due to end by 31 March 2021, with a new progamme and fresh funding.

The RGC was launched in 2019 and focused on helping properties in rural locations to access faster broadband. A main part of this was a voucher scheme that, as defined by Building Digital UK, allowed ‘community and small to medium sized businesses to aggregate vouchers together in group schemes to fund the cost of gigabit-capable broadband to their community.’

DCMS has reported that an independent review revealed that ‘The £2.6bn Government scheme to roll out superfast broadband to ‘commercially unviable’ parts of the UK sparked a surge in home values of up to £3,500, according to a new report, and more than 96% of homes and businesses can now access superfast broadband.’

It is expected that a successor programme will be introduced to continue progess on the Government’s £5bn UK Gigabit Broadband Programme, which aims to provide ‘gigabit-capable’ network coverage to a minimum of 85% of society by the end of 2025. DCMS also recently published the Planning for Gigabit Delivery in 2021 report, in which it stated that ‘following the success of the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, we’re keen that we continue voucher-supported delivery during 2021’, and ‘the voucher team will continue to work with suppliers and communities to transition smoothly from the current to the new voucher.’ The question remains of how much funding will be made available for the new voucher, expected to be announced in next week’s budget.

The closures of gyms and leisure centers because of COVID-19 has become a worrying issue that also needs to be addressed. This issue has been highlighted by Rebecca Passmore, the managing director of PureGym, at a DCMS committee oral evidence session. She said: ‘Gyms have had no income for 34 of the last 54 weeks, we have had no revenue coming in. We haven’t been able to do click-and-collect or takeaways. It’s clearly taking its toll on operators. Balance sheets are being pushed to their limits.’

The Guardian reports the measures representatives from gyms and leisure centers are seeking from the Government to help them recover and survive from the effects of coronavirus. The Budget could include these measures, which ask the Government to apply ‘the same VAT rules to the physical active sector as it does the hospitality industry, which has had to pay the Government only 5% of the 20% VAT it has collected in lockdown’, and calls for the Government to ‘extend the rent holiday and to also legislate so that the burden of rent was shared between landlord and tenants during the lockdown.’

The BBC has also reported that ‘A coalition of athletes, celebrities and health bodies have written to the prime minister asking for the “fullest possible support” to help sports and exercise facilities survive the pandemic.’ Overall, there is a clear need and expectation that the upcoming budget will outline plans and funding towards the survival and recovery of gym and leisure centers.

It is clear that digital, cultural and sport sectors are among the most adversely affected by COVID-19 and the upcoming budget is expected to outline plans to resolve these issues, and support Covid recovery and job protection. At the same time, the acceleration of digitalsation within the UK because of COVID-19 could see accelerated measures introduced to boost digital connectivity.

Vuelio Political clients will receive the Budget Summary on 3 March. 

Budget 2021 education predictions

Budget 2021 Speculation: the education and skills crisis

According to the Institute for Government, the upcoming Budget will focus on the Treasury’s ‘Plan for Growth’, although growth may be a little hard to envisage while the UK remains in lockdown and unemployment rises. However, it safe to assume, even in ‘the new normal’, that much of the Budget this year will focus on protecting jobs and promoting skills.

According to IPPR, half a million employers are at risk of bankruptcy once job support schemes close, together employing approximately nine million people. Labour is joined by a plethora of voices calling for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to announce an extension to the furlough scheme, due to end in April, to prevent more large-scale job losses.

Despite emerging data on the positive impact of the UK’s vaccine roll-out on transmission and severity of illness,  2021 will undoubtedly pose another challenging year for the labour market. It is therefore essential that Sunak sets out how crisis support will meet the winding down of restrictions.  Another furlough extension does seem quite likely, given that the last extension was granted before the current lockdown was announced.

The Government already set out a plan for jobs last summer, with a number of schemes to incentivise businesses to take on apprentices or to support individuals to upskill in order to find work, so one could assume these bases have already been covered. However, the Lifetime Skills Guarantee won’t come in until April this year, with the further education sector already voicing concerns about the probability of its success. These worries join concerns about the uptake of incentives like Kickstart, despite the Education and Skills Funding Agency recently sharing how employers are benefitting from the scheme.

At a time when young people are struggling the most to gain and maintain paid work, it is essential that job support is offered where it is needed, and that schemes for job creation are changed quickly if found to be ineffective. Such changes have been suggested by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, who support an extension to the Kickstart Scheme beyond 2021. A strong focus on jobs is therefore essential if the Government is to deliver on the mantra of ‘building back better’ from the pandemic.

One way to do this is to keep the commitment to raising the minimum wage in April, which would go some way to addressing the low pay of keyworkers we have all relied on over the course of the last year. However, as the Learning and Work Institute argues, this must be part of a broader package of ‘good work’ practices to reduce job poverty and improve standards in the UK.

Another obvious and immediate need is for a well-resourced catch-up programme for children who have now been learning from home on and off for a year, with a devastating impact on education across the board. Anyone who regularly listens to Prime Minister’s Questions will have heard Prime Minister Boris Johnson say that remedying the damage to children’s education is a focus for the Government.

Large amounts of funding have already been allocated for tutoring, catch-up and digital access, although there is further discussion on how best to implement catch up. This funding has recently been supplemented with a further £300m, in light of the delay to reopening schools. However, there are reports that even this amount will not cover the damage, and that schools per pupil funding has fallen in real terms this year to below what it was in 2010-11 due to the pandemic. Despite this, it seems unlikely that more catch-up support will be offered in this years’ Budget although it would be welcome.

Yet to be addressed (depending on who you ask) is the need for an equivalent catch up programme for the early years sector, requested by The Sutton Trust last year. Crucial to educational attainment and even job prospects later down the line, lost access to high quality early education either through choice or forced closure is already having an impact on school readiness. But as Fleur Anderson MP recently pointed out in a session of the Education Select Committee, with ministers Nick Gibb and Vicky Ford, there has been no catch-up programme for the early years. Ford, the Minister for Children and Families, said this was due to providers staying open in lockdown while schools had to close. This has not stopped Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years Tulip Siddiq asking the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson what discussion on a long-term funding settlement for maintained nursery schools he has had with the Chancellor.

The Budget this year is likely to feature heavily on job support and creation, as the job market continues to be impacted by restrictions caused by the pandemic. Although it is clear the Government will have to prioritise certain areas of support after an incredibly difficult year, the consequences of inadequate funding for education and the early years sector has the potential to push another crisis further down the line.

Vuelio Political clients will receive the Budget Summary on 3 March. 

Green recovery budget 2021

Budget 2021 Speculation: How might Rishi Sunak deliver a green recovery?

Much has changed since Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered his last Budget almost a year ago, but one thing which hasn’t is the need to tackle climate change and to protect the environment, both in the UK and internationally.

When the Treasury announced that 2021’s Budget would be on 3 March, it said that it would ‘set out the next phase of the plan to tackle the virus and protect jobs’. As the widespread calls, both from within the Government and from a wide variety of interested parties, to ‘build back better’ and deliver a ‘green recovery’ show, these two aims can be delivered in parallel.

So far, the Government has released some of the building blocks to inform and help deliver these aims. We’ve had the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, the National Infrastructure Strategy, the Energy White Paper, the interim report of the Treasury’s Net Zero Review and the Dasguta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity. More strategies are promised, digging into some of the toughest areas of decarbonisation: heating, transport, energy-intensive industries. With the UK hosting COP26, the UN’s climate change conference, this year, the Government will want to show that it is leading by example.

But to deliver on these strategies, the Chancellor will need to pull some of the levers at his disposal. To look at it in the most simplistic way, the Government has two ways of doing this: spending and tax. Sunak could announce investment in technologies and projects to deliver a ‘green recovery’ or changes in taxes to incentivise others to do so, such as new reliefs. Equally, he could announce increases or adjustments to taxes to penalise those responsible for emissions and environmental damage, embracing the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

One tax which could rise is fuel duty. The Daily Telegraph recently reported that Conservative backbenchers believed that an increase is ‘inevitable’. A ‘Northern Tory’ told the paper that ‘the Government can wrap itself up in the green cloak of COP26 and the British public might not love it, but they will stomach it’. However, ending the decade-long freeze would not be without political problems. The Sun, which strongly backed the freeze, has already mobilised against the change, enlisting backbenchers Robert Halfon, who said ‘a fuel duty increase would level down – far from building back better and would damage the foundations of economic recovery’, and Craig Mackinlay, who claimed it would be ‘bad for the economy, bad for business and bad for jobs’.

The Times has reported that the Government has been considering options for new carbon taxes, with departments ordered to set ‘prices’ for emissions from all parts of the economy as part of a plan to ‘implement some form of carbon pricing’ in the next decade. This would form part of a strategy to ‘deliver a carbon price for the whole economy’ ahead of COP26. However, this plan has been blocked by Boris Johnson according to the Daily Mail.

BDO suggests that further changes to taxes linked to climate and the environment could be announced, such as capital allowances ‘that support the Government’s carbon reduction agenda’, new taxes on more single-use items such as coffee cups, or higher VAT rates for ‘environmentally damaging goods and services’.

If the Government is minded to go down this route, it would do well to examine the findings of a recent National Audit Office report that concluded the Treasury and HMRC ‘tend to focus more on the revenue that environmental taxes raise rather than the environmental impact they achieve’ and ‘do little’ to identify measures ‘which impact on Government’s wider environmental objectives but which are not recognised as environmental in nature’. If the Government wants to use the tax system to incentivise environmentally beneficial behaviour and penalise irresponsible activity, it needs to be sure that it’s doing so in an effective way.

Of course, another way in which the Government can act is for Rishi Sunak to produce the national chequebook. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies notes, ‘we need a plan for measures that increase the productive capacity of the economy and help steer and ease the transition to a new normal’ which should include ‘investments in physical and digital infrastructure, training, and science’ to help ‘achieve goals such as reaching Net Zero by 2050’.

The use of Government investment to deliver this green recovery is being advocated by business and unions. The TUC is continuing to push its plan to create 1.24m jobs in green infrastructure by bringing forward at least £85bn of infrastructure investment. This would see investment across a range of industries, including energy, land, buildings, transport, waste, manufacturing and digital, delivering a range of positive outcomes both for the environment and the economy.

The CBI has recommended that the Government commit to deliver seven more gigafactories by 2040 (these build batteries for electric vehicles), ensure that private sector investment is crowded-in by the new National Infrastructure Bank and invest in sustainable aviation fuels, as well as introduce reliefs for businesses which invest in property and machinery energy efficiency.

The Institute for Directors has advocated the creation of a ‘new digital and green Recovery Credit incentive for SMEs’, helping to support their investment in digital and green technologies, noting that at the moment British small businesses ‘tend to lag peer nations when it comes to adopting best practice’. It also wants a ‘retraining Recovery Credit incentive for SMEs’, which would especially focus on digital and green skills.

One area to particularly watch out for will be the future of the Green Homes Grants. Launched with much fanfare by Sunak as part of his Plan for Jobs last summer, recent news has not been encouraging. The grants were advertised as being worth £2bn, allowing homeowners and landlords to apply for vouchers for energy efficiency improvements. However, 95% of the £1.5bn for householders has not been spent and, while the grants have been extended until March 2022, the funding is not being rolled over to the next financial year. Instead, £320m will be available from March – a much smaller sum.

Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Ed Miliband said that the Government was ‘denying homeowners the energy improvements they need, denying installers the work they need and denying the country the green transition we need.’ The Government blamed the low take-up on ‘an understandable reluctance on the part of the public to welcome tradespeople into their homes.’ If Sunak does want to revisit the design or funding of the scheme, the Budget would be a good opportunity.

With so much happening in the environmental and climate policy landscape in 2021 – including another budget, the UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget – it would be a missed opportunity if the Chancellor didn’t take the Budget as an opportunity to ensure that the Government’s tax and spending decisions were in line with its ambitious climate ambitions.

Vuelio Political clients will receive the Budget Summary on 3 March. 

Weekly Health Summary

Covid-19: Weekly Health Summary – 18 February

The Health Summary is part of our Weekly COVID-19 Bulletin, sent every Thursday. You can sign up to receive your copy here.

Last weekend, the Government hit its target of offering the Covid-19 vaccine to the top four priority groups: all elderly care home residents and their carers; everyone over 70; all frontline health and social care workers; and everyone with a condition that makes them extremely vulnerable to the virus. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called the news an ‘unprecedented national achievement,’ highlighting that 90% of over 70s took up their offer for a vaccine.

Reaching the target has meant that the vaccines delivery programme entered a new phase this week, with the roll out extended to people aged 65 to 69 and those who are clinically vulnerable against Covid-19.

NHS England and Improvement has indicated that GP led vaccination sites will focus initially on the clinically vulnerable to ensure continuity of care. NHS Confederation’s Primary Care Network Director Ruth Rankine has welcomed this approach, she said: ‘Working as part of an integrated system, primary care is best placed to offer vaccinations to clinically extremely vulnerable people. Primary care services are at the heart of communities and have already found ways to improve access through targeted public information and local engagement.’

Over the weekend, the Government published a Vaccination Uptake Plan to further enforce the roll of community- led engagement in vaccine distribution. The plan aims to make the vaccine more accessible including to ethnic minorities and those with disabilities. It has been welcomed by NHS Providers, which has noticed that vaccine uptake is lower in certain groups, including a reluctance among BAME NHS staff. Chief executive Chris Hopson said that NHS Trust leaders will welcome strengthened collaboration between the Government, charities and health organisations to build upon ‘successful local initiatives and innovations, so that disparities can be eliminated.’

A further 1.7m people are expected to be added to the shielding list and will prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine. It follows a new model that was developed to consider extra factors including, ethnicity, deprivation and weight. Runnymede Trust called the news a ‘watershed movement, signally a recognition that class and race impacts your vulnerability to Covid-19’.

According to latest figures from the REACT-1 community surveillance study, Covid-19 infections have fallen by more than two-thirds since the start of February. Although infection levels remain high, these latest findings indicate that lockdown restrictions have had an impact on reducing infections across the country. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘These findings show encouraging signs infections are now heading in the right direction across the country, but we must not drop our guard. Cases and hospital admissions remain high – over 20,000 COVID-19 patients are in hospital – so it is vital we all remain vigilant and follow the rules as our vaccination rollout continues at pace.’

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee held an evidence session on easing lockdown measures in England on Wednesday. Here, it was suggested by Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, that the country could potentially begin to ease out of lockdown earlier than it did the first-time round because of promising data on Covid-19 transmission.

He also praised the high take up of vaccinations, highlighting that the vaccine roll out has reduced transmission. On the other hand, the Government’s deputy chief scientific adviser, Professor Angela McLean, struck a more cautious argument and said that is vital that lockdown measures are reduced in line with the rollout of vaccines.

NHS Providers said four tests must be met before lockdown restrictions can be reduced. Firstly, Covid-19 infections should be around 1,000 a day; NHS capacity must be high enough to treat all patients; the vaccination campaign should be sufficiently advanced and, finally, an effective strategy should be in place to rapidly identify and control future outbreaks.

Weekly Economy Summary

COVID-19: Weekly Economy Summary – 18 February

The Economy Summary is part of our Weekly COVID-19 Bulletin, sent every Thursday. You can sign up to receive your copy here.

Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that the UK economy shrunk by a record amount (9.9%) last year, more than twice the previous largest annual fall. However, it grew by 1.2% in December when some restrictions were eased, making it likely that the UK can avoid a double-dip recession.

As stringent Covid-19 restrictions are expected to remain elevated until early spring, along with the effects of post-Brexit adjustment, the NIESR’s forecast is for GDP growth to decline by 3.8% in the first quarter of 2021.

The Treasury Committee has published the third report of its inquiry into the Economic Impact of Coronavirus – ‘Gaps in Support and Economic Analysis’. Its recommendations include: Government must set out criteria for how and when it will lift lockdown restrictions with economic and epidemiological modelling to support it; HM Treasury should be more transparent with economic analysis that informs Government decisions; HM Treasury should use 2019-20 tax returns to help the newly self-employed; Eligibility for Government support should be extended to those missing out, including limited company directors and freelancers.

The IPPR think tank released a new briefing paper, in which Chancellor Rishi Sunak is urged to quadruple the Government’s planned crisis spending to £190bn in order to restore jobs, investment, and services. Failure to deliver such a boost risks condemning the UK to a ‘stagnation trap’ with about half the rate of economic recovery. It would mean lower business investment and leave unemployment at more than 10% in spring next year.

The British Chambers of Commerce published a new COVID survey that finds that 25% of respondents say they will have to make staff redundant if Government financial support ends in March and April. The BCC is calling on the Government to keep financial support going while firms reopen and rebuild, with a clear roadmap for reopening to help increase business confidence.

Similarly, a £13bn tax rescue package could be key to reviving the economy, boosting the hospitality sector and saving summer holidays, according to a report from The TaxPayer’s Alliance. The report claims an extension to the Chancellor’s business rates holiday and VAT reduction would create tax cuts of £9.4bn and £3.5bn respectively in 2021-22, a total of £12.9bn. If extended until after 2022-23 as proposed, this would generate total savings of £25.6bn for the sector over the two years.

Labour set out new plans to back British businesses, as it calls on the Government to help ease the Covid-debt burden faced by firms across the country. The party suggested converting the Bounce Back Loans (BBLs) scheme into a ‘student-loan style’ arrangement, so that businesses only have to start repayments when they are making money. Labour also called for the establishment of a British Business Recovery Agency that would manage the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme (CBILs) and Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILs) in order to create terms that secure the future of businesses, including employee ownership, preference shares and subordinated debt.

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds’s business-backing plan comes after a week in which Labour has called for business rate holidays and VAT cuts to be extended and for a smarter furlough scheme to last until necessary health restrictions are lifted.

Almost two millions workers were unemployed or fully furloughed in January and had been for at least six months, according to a report by The Resolution Foundation. The report finds that the number of people on the Government’s Job Retention Scheme (JRS) has risen to around 4.5m during the current lockdown, almost half of the peak during the first lockdown; indicating that firms have adapted to operating during the pandemic.

The report calls for the full JRS to remain in place for several months after public health restrictions have been lifted to give firms time to bring staff back, and remain in place for longer in sectors still subject to legal restrictions, such as hospitality and leisure.

Budget speculation Housing

Budget 2021 Speculation: Housing

In the run up to next month’s Budget, housing industry bodies have been leading numerous campaigns – from protecting leaseholders from cladding costs, to extending various tax cuts, to accelerating the decarbonisation of buildings.

Here are six policies that could be included in the Chancellor’s statement.

1. Stamp Duty holiday extension
Many in the housing sector are calling for the six-month Stamp Duty holiday to be extended beyond the current 31 March expiry date. Both buyers and sellers have called for an extension to the six-month tax break, introduced to support the property market during the pandemic. Experts have predicted that the end of the scheme could see house prices decrease significantly. Other than setting the end of the Stamp Duty holiday to another date, the Chancellor could choose to introduce exemptions for buyers already at a certain stage along the process, or permanently maintain the threshold for eligibility at properties over £500,000.

2. Property tax
There have been reports that Stamp Duty could be scrapped altogether, along with council tax, to be replaced with a new property value tax. This could appear in the form of a proportional property tax – a levy that homeowners would have to pay each year on the value of their property. For landlords with more than one residential property, the tax would apply for each property owned. There have been suggestions that the money raised from the levy could be split between the Treasury and the local authority.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has already announced that developers seeking permission to develop certain high-rise buildings in England will have to pay a ‘Gateway 2’ developer levy. In addition to this, a new tax will be introduced for the UK residential property development sector, expected to raise at least £2bn over a decade to go towards cladding remediation costs. Details of this will be the subject of a consultation paper, which could be put forward at the Budget.

3. Domestic reverse charge
The ‘domestic reverse charge’ change means companies in the construction supply chain will no longer receive their 20% VAT payment when they submit bills. The VAT cash will instead be paid direct to HMRC by the customer receiving the service, who will reclaim it in the normal way.

Despite the changes coming into effect on 1 March, industry bodies, such as the Construction Leadership Council and the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) are hoping for a last-minute change of plan ahead of the Budget, warning that more than 150,000 construction companies will experience a 20% drop in cash flow as a result. In a letter to the Chancellor, Chairman of the Construction Leadership Council Andy Mitchell argued that the policy ‘risks reversing any recovery industry has made from Covid-19 and will limit the scope for protecting and creating jobs across the UK’. An Early Day Motion expressing concern over the Treasury’s decision to go ahead with the policy was tabled last week by SNP MP Kirsten Oswald.

4. National Retrofit Strategy
There have been numerous calls from industry bodies, including the National Housing Federation and the FMB, for a National Retrofit Strategy. Decarbonising homes and buildings is a vital step in achieving net zero emissions by 2050. In its Energy White Paper released in December, the Government said a programme for retrofitting homes to improve energy efficiency will be introduced. This could happen at the Budget.

5. Another extension to the Green Homes Grant
The Green Homes Grant has already been extended once, until March 2022, however, poor uptake of the scheme – described as complex and difficult to access – has led the Government to cut funding by £1.5bn from April. Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee Philip Dunne argued that unless the scheme is further extended, it will fail to meet its ambitions.

6. Extension to the Universal Credit uplift
Universal Credit claimants have been receiving a weekly £20 rise during the coronavirus pandemic. The Government is under increased pressure to extend the rise past 31 March, however, speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it was a ‘temporary measure’ and that the Budget would set out support ‘in the round’.

Instead of extending the rise, there have been numerous reports in the media that the Chancellor is contemplating offering Universal Credit claimants a one-off payment of £500. However, this was rejected by Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey.

Vuelio Political clients will receive the Budget Summary on 3 March. 

The Power of Mentoring

The benefits of coaching and mentoring in the workplace

Mentoring can be a great way to help young people as they enter the world of work and learn to navigate office politics, discover the nuances of email and work etiquette. We caught up with mentor and Pulsar strategic account director Patrick Dalgleish and his mentee Franklin Nnodi to talk about their mentoring experience.

What made you want to take part in the IntoUniversity mentoring scheme?

Patrick Dalgleish: I had been thinking for a while that I’d like to ‘give something back’ and use some of my time and experience to help others. I went into it with an open mind, and looked at a few things from food charities, to environmental work, and came across IntoUniversity’s corporate mentoring scheme which seemed to fit most neatly with my experience of having recently been through university (or at least not too long ago at the time!), I was in a settled job, and seemed to work well around my schedule.

Franklin Nnodi: It was an opportunity that was presented to me during sixth form and I simply thought ‘why not’. I was eager to learn, network and better myself in any way and so to meet a professional mentor who is experienced and passionate in their role would be a huge opportunity to learn and get some answers to interesting questions.

How long did the scheme last and how did it fit around your working day/degree?

Patrick: The scheme formally lasted for 12 months, with the first half focused on preparing Franklin for uni – doing the applications, finding accommodation, talking through what to expect – and the second half being when Franklin started university and supporting him with any questions he might have.

The scheme formally ended after his 1st semester at uni, but Franklin and I continue to stay in regular contact two years later!

It fitted relatively easily around my working day, we would meet up usually once a month, when he was at school it was a little more challenging as we had to meet at the IntoUni premises – therefore I’d need to finish work a little bit early on that day, which Pulsar was always supportive of.

Franklin: Luckily myself and my mentor both live in the same part of London so I was able to meet him for coffee in his office and have our catchup (pre-COVID). If that wasn’t possible then we’d usually schedule quarterly catchup calls via WhatsApp so I can keep him in the loop and up to date with any of my achievements or struggles I was experiencing.

Did you face any challenges during the mentoring? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?

Patrick: The main challenge was finding ways to help Franklin as he very much knew what he wanted and where he wanted to be! And he’s been extremely successful in achieving that.

Franklin also asked me whether Pulsar could help with providing work experience. It wasn’t something we’d formally done before, but the HR team here were keen and created a insightful schedule for Franklin over the course of two weeks.

Franklin: No huge challenges, however, trying to organise meetups in person (pre-COVID) would be quite difficult due to his busy work schedule and the spontaneity of university events and commitments. Establishing good communication and planning well in advance is how we managed to keep in contact as frequently as we did.

What was your highlight in the mentoring experience and why?

Patrick: The highlight has just been getting to know Franklin and watching him progress through university. I felt genuinely proud when he let me know he’d been offered a graduate job with the investment firm Schroders at the end of his second year at uni.

Franklin: By having such a great relationship with my mentor, I was able to gain a spring insight week and a short summer work experience placement in his company. I was able to work closely alongside him and his colleagues and gain amazing insight into his industry.

What advice would you give to someone considering taking part in a mentoring scheme?

Patrick: Do it! Your experience will undoubtedly help a young person starting off in their university or professional career.

Franklin: Be organised, be honest, be enthusiastic and most importantly be willing to learn because these guys have made all the mistakes so you don’t have to.

Finally, would you do it again?

Patrick: Absolutely!

Franklin: 1000% yes.

Find out more about social listening platform Pulsar.

accessmatters with Katie Phillips

accessmatters with KDP Coaching & Consulting’s Katie Phillips

‘There’s never been a better time to talk about mental health in the workplace, but we’ve got a long bloody way to go,’ is how KDP Coaching & Consulting’s Katie Phillips summed up the management of mental health issues in 2021 during today’s accessmatters discussion on wellbeing in the workplace.

In the session, ‘recovering perfectionist’ Katie shared the story of how she became an advocate for mental wellbeing at work as well as advice for those currently struggling. With 15 years of experience in communications, government, corporates and start-ups across the world, Katie’s own burn out and eventual recovery inspired her to launch her own consultancy, helping businesses and individuals nurture mental health with one-to-one workshops and coaching.

‘I’ve seen the good, the bad and the horrendously ugly of workplace wellbeing,’ said Katie. ‘I realised that something had to change and decided I was going to quit my job, sell all my stuff and run off to the jungle to recoup… I don’t recommend this to everyone, though – don’t fret, that’s not the only way to do it’.

Being a habitual overachiever and perfectionist, Katie’s professional life had never been completely healthy, though it was experiences of chaotic, overly-hierarchical and unkind work environments that turned the day-to-day stresses of working in PR into a full-on crisis. It is recognising that difference between the states of stress and burnout that those working during the pandemic need to pay attention to, advises Katie: ‘Stress is very much about feeling too much – too much work, pressure, noise. Burnout is feeling “not enough” – not filled with hope; empty’.

For Katie, the ramping up of stress to burnout meant a constant questioning of her own ability, feelings of resentment, a louder than ever inner critic that followed her outside of work and physical problems – skin complaints, twitching eyelids and nightly episodes of sickness that wouldn’t allow her to sleep. For those who are noticing similar issues with their own wellbeing, what can be done?

‘The main thing I always say is to look for changes in behaviour,’ says Katie. ‘Be self-aware – notice physical, emotional and cognitive changes. Are you getting colds frequently, are you more tearful or irritable than usual? Do you get brain fog? Do things take longer than they normally would? All of us are experiencing some of these things now – everyone reports this stuff to some level. Our brains are flooded with cortisol; we’re always tired.

‘Are you checking your emails all night, working when you’re sick? These behaviours can lead you very quickly to feelings of exhaustion. It’s really important to look for those changes and be aware of them.’

On the company-level, Katie believes more needs to be done to support the mental health of employees – ‘I’m not sure anyone is doing enough. We are making massive progress, but is talking going to fix things? Companies need to create environments where people thrive. The mental health stuff needs to come on top of systemic change. To be enough, we need to think about the foundations of our organisations and the industry itself.’

And for drawing a line between work and life when things are increasingly blurry, Katie believes making the effort to switch off is vital. ‘I wish I had a magic wand for it. You have to do what works for you; we all need different things. Picking up hobbies I used to love when I was little helps – I loved drawing when I was little, so I started doodling again. I really loved to be on my bike, so I bought a bike. Think about things you used to do for fun. I know it’s not the same as going on holiday, but get a colouring book, cook, have a call with your mates or loved ones.’

Just as important as staying connected and talking, is listening – being aware of what your fellow colleagues might be going through and supporting each other: ‘It’s not just talking, it’s the conversations – a dialogue, not just putting out messages,’ says Katie. ‘Classic PR and marketing stuff, really.’

For more from accessmatters, catch up with our previous sessions with Taylor Bennett Foundation’s Melissa Lawrence and Manifest’s Julian Obubo or check out the accessmatters hub.

Fuse podcast

The PRCA launches the Fuse podcast

The PRCA has launched Fuse, a podcast focusing on innovation and influence for those working in PR, marketing and other creative industries across the globe.

Fuse will take the form of a biweekly, fifteen-minute podcast and feature best practice advice with an aim to inspire fresh ways of working and challenge the status quo in the industry. Content will be inspired by the experiences and expertise of practitioners from a variety of specialisms.

‘We look forward to putting the full power of storytelling to bring facts and insights from individuals and brands from around the world,’ said podcast host Dan Gold.

‘We are putting people first. Expertise is found throughout the industry in all locations and all stages on the professional journey – from the savvy leaders to the young up-and-coming creatives. We are looking for practitioners from any background and experience to get involved with Fuse for the opportunity to speak about what they care about.’

Those hoping to get involved in the podcast, whether for interview or debate around challenges facing PRs, marketers and communicators, can get in touch with PRCA head of communications Michael Collins. Contributors from all levels are welcome.

For more podcasts focusing on the big issues in PR and communications, check out six of our favourites here.