Weekly Economy Summary

COVID-19: Weekly Economy Summary – 18 March

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

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data for January suggests that the economy was hit less by the renewed lockdown than expected. UK GDP is estimated to have fallen by 2.9% in January 2021 compared to the predicted 5%. The output approach to GDP shows that January’s level was 9% below that seen in February 2020 and was 4% below levels seen in October 2020 – the initial recovery peak. 

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) said that January’s smaller than expected fall in GDP means that it now estimates a contraction of 2.4% in the first quarter of 2021. This would leave GDP in the first quarter of 2021 around 9% lower than its level in the last quarter of 2019, before the pandemic struck. 

Real-time data and NIESR analysis imply that GDP is likely to resume its growth in February and March, by 0.3% and 1.1% respectively, on the back of higher contribution from Government services and improving consumer confidence as infection rates come down. As a result, the first quarter of 2021 is likely to see a smaller contraction than widely anticipated. However, the pace of recovery from the second quarter will crucially depend on how the opposing effects of the vaccine roll-out and lifting lockdown affect the path of Covid-19, as well as how consumers and businesses react. 

Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said that the UK economy should recover to its pre-pandemic size by the end of this year. Speaking in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on Monday morning, Mr Bailey said the Bank was ‘not out of firepower’ in defending the economy as it recovers from the pandemic, adding that it was looking at ‘new tools’ which could include negative interest rates. However, he warned that new variants of the virus could still pose a risk to the economic recovery. The Bank of England governor also remarked that the economic effects of the pandemic had been ‘very unequal’, with women, ethnic minorities and the low-paid all disproportionately impacted.  

OBR committee member and former Bank of England deputy governor Sir Charlie Bean said last week to the Commons Treasury Committee that he does ‘not expect households to go out and blow [their savings] all within the next quarter or two’ but it will be ‘spread out over several years’. According to a recent report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, UK households will go on an estimated £50bn spending spree once lockdown restrictions are lifted. It warned that ‘if interest rates are kept low, there is a real threat that inflation could rise rapidly above the Bank of England’s 2% target and be difficult to control.’ 

Laptop, glasses, coffee mug, mouse and face mask

One year on: How the pandemic has impacted influencers

This post is by Slummy Single Mummy blogger Jo Middleton, exploring the impact the pandemic has had on the influencer industry.

Jo Middleton mummy blogger

A year ago this week, (or is it four? It feels like four years at least…), the UK entered its first lockdown. Nobody knew what to expect, how long it would last or what the impact would be on jobs, on whole industries and on our emotional well-being.

At first I wasn’t too worried. As a freelance writer and blogger at Slummy Single Mummy, self-employed now for over 12 years, I’m used to my income going through peaks and troughs. I have some savings – not a lot, but enough to mean I don’t need to rush out and sell the kitchen appliances at the first sign of trouble – and I’m good at holding my nerve when it comes to cash flow.

As one by one all of my existing blog projects were suddenly ‘paused’, (read ‘cancelled’ ultimately in most cases), and the tumbleweed rolled around my inbox, I lay in the garden reading Agatha Christie books and getting a suntan. ‘Give it a couple of months,’ I thought, ever the optimist, ‘and everything will be back to normal right?’

Wrong.

Instead here we are, one year down the line and, as a blogger and influencer, work is far from back to normal. No press trips, no events, no fun video projects where I have three weeks to learn Spanish and go on a date with a Spanish man called Marco. Nada.

The salt rubbed in the wounds is that I’ve not qualified for a single penny of financial support either. My earnings are over the cap and while as a single mum and sole breadwinner I’m definitely not rolling in disposable cash, apparently my average income means I should have made better pandemic provisions. Consider me told.

What I’ve found interesting though is how different brands and different influencers have responded. Campaigns have been switched up to focus on the joy of staying at home and I’ve seen a significant increase in approaches for projects around takeaways and alcohol. And while I’ve personally found it difficult to concentrate and hard to motivate myself, other bloggers have seized the opportunity of more free time to try new things and start new projects.

Take John Adams for instance, who blogs at Dad Blog UK. Pre-pandemic I’ve always admired John for his consistency and positive attitude. You just know that John works hard, and I was not surprised to learn that he was one influencer who has been using the last year productively.

John Adams

“Lockdown inspired me to do two things,’ John told me. “Number one, decades after leaving school, I started studying GCSE maths. It’s an exam I failed in my youth and it’s always bugged me. I sat exams in November and January and I’m just waiting for the results now.

“Number two, I launched a podcast called DadPodUK. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages so I produced a mini-series of eight episodes. To my amazement, those episodes were enough for me to get a Runner Up accolade in the inaugural Podcasting for Business Awards. This, despite the fact that early episodes were a bit ropey in places because I had no idea about recording audio, a skill I have rapidly taught myself.”

Admirable stuff right? There I was, signing up to an interior design course that I managed one module of, and John was resitting his maths GCSE. Not everyone though, (me included), has found it so easy to maintain that sense of drive and determination in the midst of such uncertainty.

So many influencers I’ve spoken to have told me that work just stopped in the early months of the pandemic. In an industry that can feel unpredictable at best, (I often wonder when someone is going to notice that I don’t have a ‘proper job’ and make me work as a plumber or something), we shouldn’t underestimate just how unsettling this was.

‘The first couple of months into the pandemic work basically stopped,’ says Fritha, aka Tiger Lilly Quinn, ‘which was worrying but not unexpected. I think like the rest of the world brands didn’t really know what lay ahead or what would be appropriate in terms of advertising. It’s been a slow climb back over the past year and our income has definitely taken a big hit.’

It has been the same for Donna from What The Redhead Said. Although Donna has normally remained upbeat, regular watchers of her Instagram stories will appreciate the subtle but clear correlation between the stress she’s feeling and the number of fudge recipes she creates. (I can vouch for the fudge recipes though – homemade slow cooker fudge has become just as much of a crutch for me during lockdown as I suspect it has for Donna.)

“Work for me vanished at the start of the pandemic,” says Donna. “I had a good three months where I earned next to nothing. I had a lot of work cancelled that involved content around days out, holidays and festivals. Influencers just stopped being able to promote huge chunks of everyday life literally overnight.

“I’ve seen a lot of influencers give up and go and get ‘proper jobs’ because trying to juggle a freelance career, sporadic income and family life is just too much. There’s a lot to be said for a guaranteed income during a pandemic and I can completely understand why some influencers have thrown in the towel.”

I can totally relate to this. After years of self-employment I took the huge step in November of taking a permanent, part-time job. Partly it was to have that regular income stream – the months of uncertainty had started to take their toll on my cash flow nerves of steel – but partly to address the issue of motivation.

In normal times I would work from a coworking space or cafe to break up the day and keep me focussed but with just the same four walls around me I was finding it increasingly difficult to find any structure or motivation at all. Making myself accountable to someone else has forced me to concentrate, if only for a few hours a day, and has helped to give me back a little of my pre-lockdown mojo.

Another consideration for influencers has been the type of content to post. We all want to be respectful of the difficult situations that people have been living through, but at the same time there’s clearly a huge appetite right now for any escapist.

I know in the early weeks of lockdown, (when I wasn’t sunbathing), I spent a lot of time walking in circles around the park listening to episodes of The Great Indoors podcast from Sophie Robinson and Kate Watson-Smyth from Mad About the House. That was pure escapism for me – escape from a world of uncertainty and greyness into a cosy, comforting and colourful landscape. I pictured myself under their duvets with them as they tried to record remotely with decent acoustics and their light-hearted positivity was a tonic.

Kate Watson-Smyth 2019 feature

I spoke to Kate about how she managed the balance between creating content that was fun but not overly frivolous.

“To start with I found it hard to decide on content,” says Kate. “It didn’t (and still doesn’t) feel right to keep talking about new stuff when people were worrying about how they were going to pay their bills.

“That said, it’s good to see that people are understanding the link between their homes and their well-being and mental health and are trying to make their homes work for them through their choice of colour and decor.

“Broadly speaking it’s a good time to be writing about interiors as interest is high (my blog had record-breaking numbers and engagement last year) and people want to know what they can do to make their homes both functional and attractive. For me that has all been good – all I ever set out to do with the blog was to encourage people to ask if they genuinely liked and needed what they were buying, so they wouldn’t make expensive mistakes and so their homes can support them and make them happy.”

So what’s the future looking like for influencers? Will we see a return to pre-covid levels of activity? I think so. Just over the last month I’ve noticed my inbox getting busier as brands adapt and start to look forwards. I think that having an exit plan has given everyone a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel and although it may take a while to get back to normal, there are surely going to be an awful lot of brands wanting to get themselves back on the radar and so plenty of opportunities for influencers to support that.

“A year later, my income levels are nowhere near where they were before the virus took hold,” admits Donna, “and it’s only now, a year after the initial lockdown, that I’m starting to receive a few tentative emails about reviewing hotels or going on press trips. Overall though  I’m starting to see brighter days ahead. I’m getting more emails, I have a few nice little campaigns lined up for the coming months and everyone just seems more willing to make plans and move forward once lockdown starts to ease.”

I agree with Donna – brighter days do feel like they’re ahead. And in the meantime, maybe I’ll just make one more batch of lockdown fudge.

people having a conversation on video chat

‘Speed dating’ for journalists and PRs

Last month, to celebrate our partnership with Journo Resources, we held our first virtual ‘speed dating’ event for journalists and PRs. After putting a call out, we had four journos and four PRs take part in 15-minute ‘speed dates’.

The aim was for our PRs and journalists to network with each other and have quick, effective conversations, and if they were stuck for chat, everyone had been given some handy icebreaker questions.

We caught up with them after the event to get their feedback and here’s what they said:

Firstly, did you enjoy your ‘speed dating’ experience?

Rachael Davies, freelance journalist: I really liked it! It was lovely putting names to faces, instead of only talking with email accounts, etc. Especially during the pandemic, it’s nice to do a bit of face-to-face networking.

Daniel Puddicombe, freelance journalist: I did – it was a nice way to break up the day and make new connections, something which hasn’t happened a lot recently owing to the pandemic. The format of the event worked well – 10 minutes to get to know a stranger, see what you have in common and how you can help each other going forwards.

Were you surprised by anything your ‘dates’ told you about their job?

Jack Izzard, CEO, Rhizome Media: Yes. All the journalists I spoke to are freelance, and it was interesting to hear what their strike rate is when pitching story ideas to editors.

Rachael Davies, freelance journalist: I was surprised by how much research and stats they’re doing behind the scenes, and have encouraged them to share that more. I often get sent very people-focused stories, and rarely concrete data, but numbers can often be much more of a hook! I’ve got some interesting stats and research results to work with already from some of the PRs I’ve met.

Daniel Puddicombe, freelance journalist: Not really – everything made sense. I wouldn’t say it was surprising, but the event reminded me that there are so many sectors out there that I don’t really come into contact with, such as PRs that concentrate on ‘stunts’, so it was nice to see how the ‘other side’ works.

What do you think people misunderstand about PR/journalists?

Rachael Davies, freelance journalist: How much control we have over whether a story gets picked up! We can want something published or think that a story deserves telling as much as you, but editors and publications might have different ideas.

Jack Izzard, CEO, Rhizome Media: Journalists mistakenly think PR is easy. And that any hack who tires of PR can move seamlessly on to be a gravy train career in PR. Sadly this is not the case now; and I’m not sure it ever was. While many of the skills you require in journalism – the news sense, the speed and precision of writing – are very useful for PRs, a good PR will layer on many more skills. People skills, persuasion and multitasking – not to mention entrepreneurialism – are all invaluable too. These traits are what differentiate a so-so PR from a great one.

Daniel Puddicombe, freelance journalist: What makes a good story – in this respect, the event was very useful as I was able to say ‘these are the kinds of stories I like; how can your clients help?’, bounce ideas backwards and forwards. The chats also allowed the PRs to say ‘these are kind of stories we’re working on at the moment, would they be of interest?’, too, so it worked both ways.

If you could change one thing about PRs/journalists what would it be and why?

Jack Izzard, CEO, Rhizome Media: A thank you every now and again wouldn’t go amiss. PRs don’t expect medals from journalists, but if you’re a hack and a PR has spent all day running around trying to help you, a quick acknowledgement email is always appreciated. Even if you couldn’t use the material they sent, just a quick line to say whether it made it in or not would be great. Doing so will also remove the need for the PR to pester you with questions about where your piece is and is their client in it etc. No-one likes that.

Daniel Puddicombe, freelance journalist: Pitching irrelevant stories – thankfully none of the PRs I spoke to during the event did this – but as someone with very specific beats, I’m often sent press releases that I would never use. A classic example (and one that happens over and over again) is that I’m sent a press release about a new hotel or boat. I’ve never written about boats or hotels, but because I have written rail-related pieces, someone, somewhere (or more like an algorithm) has decided that because I’ve written travel-related pieces (about trains) I must therefore be interested in hearing about a new hotel. Ditto, the PRs that pitch stories about high-end hypercars when I cover the fleet and company car industry. I’m acutely aware poor PR targeting is a problem that every journalist faces though.

Rachael Davies, freelance journalist: Encourage them to be more direct, not putting gimmicky titles in their subjects or being too flowery. Short and to the point is always best.

Hopefully you’ve made some professional connections, do you think you’ll stay in touch?

Daniel Puddicombe, freelance journalist: I exchanged contact details with the three PRs I spoke to, so hopefully we’ll stay in touch going forwards.

Jack Izzard, CEO, Rhizome Media: Yes a couple might be useful.

Rachael Davies, freelance journalist: Definitely! Made a few contacts I definitely want to follow up on and even a few fledgling story ideas.

Thank you to all the PRs and journalists that took part. We hope to run the event again so if you’re a PR or a journalist who would like to get involved please email rebecca.potts@vuelio.com.

How to work with a charity partner

How to find charity partnerships

With its reliance on awareness-raising events, in-person fundraising and support from those who have time, funds and energy, the charity sector has been immeasurably impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Help with increasing visibility in an overcrowded news space and inspiring those who have the capacity to support is where good PR can come in.

Sign up for our live webinar on 17 March 2021 at 11:00 GMT The great Covid bounce back for Charities? here.

Picking a charity for your agency to partner on a specific project, or for the longer-term, is a great way to live your purpose, give to good causes and support the charity sector at large. Where should you start?

Finding the right fit

‘It really did come down to the people for us,’ says Emma Roberts, PR manager for Dr.PAWPAW. When the skincare brand was looking for a new charity to partner with, the team found shared goals with the Teenage Cancer Trust.

‘The energy from the team there and even beneficiaries themselves has been incredible,’ says Emma of the experience. ‘They are constantly communicating with us and it really does make all the difference.’

Naturally, for a sector that’s powered by communication, comms is key. From the very start of a PR agency-charity partnership, transparency on what the shared aims are and what resources each side requires has to be clear. But before that, there’s connecting with your intended charity…

Beginning a partnership

For Red Lorry Yellow Lorry director of EMEA Hannah Patel, research and contacts in the industry were key. Previous experience working with charities as part of its PRoactive programme, which supports non-profit organisations and charities with tackling social mobility and diversity issues, also helped.

‘Most of our partnerships happened organically,’ says Hannah. ‘Our PRoactive programme has welcomed long-term partnerships that we’ve built over time, such as I Can Be, a think-tank turned charity which introduces 7 and 8-year-old girls from inner-city London schools to inspiring women in the workplace.

‘In 2020, we decided to expand the work we’re doing, but also offer pro bono support to other organisations too. To kickstart the process, we needed to define the offering by asking ourselves what skills and services might be of value and how much time we’d dedicate to each partner. We decided to create a small team of volunteers internally to drive the overall initiative and give it focus. We also asked the whole agency to contribute suggestions. The small team then selected a small handful of partners to approach. As a result, we’ve just started working with FemTech Lab – Europe’s first FemTech accelerator that helps rising stars in the space take their products to market – and we’re loving every minute of it!’

When choosing CALM as the preferred charity partnership for the Vuelio Online Influence Awards for 2020, previous work with the organisation helped, but shared goals were what made the partnership a perfect fit for the event, company at large and the industries the company works with.

‘Given the impact the pandemic has had on mental health across the comms, media and influencer industry – many of whom are self-employed, were furloughed or under increased financial strain – we wanted to support and partner with a charity that is doing amazing work in this field,’ says Access Intelligence Group Events Manager Rebecca Potts.

While Vuelio’s team-up with CALM was successful, first attempts at connecting with your chosen charities might not be. But don’t be discouraged, says Red Lorry Yellow Lorry’s Hannah: ‘It’s important to not get offended if the first potential partner you approach says no. Charities and non-profits get approached all the time by businesses wanting to ‘help out’, so it might not always be the right fit.’

Prepare to work with teams stretched to capacity

‘Having worked with several charities in my decade-long career in marketing, PR and social media, one thing that is apparent is that working in the charity sector is not a 9-5 job,’ says Little Seed Group’s Ellen Cole.

Flexibility and reactivity is required for work with a charity – especially in a time when their teams are likely smaller and busier than ever. There is also all of the necessary red tape…

‘Working with charities is extremely fulfilling – there’s nothing more motivating than knowing that your comms can make a life-changing impact. However, lots of charities are dealing with extremely sensitive issues and content – your team needs to be prepared to be able to handle comms in a sensitive manner, and to understand the appropriate tone of voice needed for the organisation. Also be aware that many charities are governed by boards – not all decisions can be made quickly and sometimes campaigns can take a long time to be signed off. Patience is a virtue – as is planning well-ahead,’ says Helen Creese, who has worked with charities regularly at Some Like It Social.

‘Be flexible,’ agrees Vuelio’s Rebecca. ‘Charity budgets are varied but often quite small. It depends on the charity, but teams can also be limited with a couple of people doing the job of a team in bigger organisations. Make sure you give them plenty of notice for any assets or content you require.’

Having less time is an occupational hazard for any charity contact you connect with – this is why help from a PR or comms agency is so valuable. ‘The majority of organisations which will find most value in your support are those who don’t have time to manage their own PR and comms in-house,’ says Hannah at Red Lorry Yellow Lorry.

‘There won’t always be a PR or marketing contact their side, so you’ll be working with people who have very busy day jobs with very little time for promotion or awareness raising activity. Don’t expect to be at the top of their priority list or expect the contacts to suddenly have a lot of extra time to dedicate to you and the PR programme you run for them. This doesn’t mean that they’re not grateful for the support, but just be self-aware enough to understand that things might take a little longer from time to time, and that the operational running of the organisation has to come first.’

Remember that any extra work and time is worth it

Finding a charity partnership, ensuring the work you’ll be doing is relevant and right for them and getting through to the right busy people is a challenge, but a worthwhile one.

‘Do it if you can,’ urges Emma at Dr.PAWPAW. ‘It’s a huge, core piece of our business now because we are in a position where we can but it hasn’t always been at the scale we give now. As soon as you can give back you should be. Apart from the obvious, that you’re helping people in need, it gives the team another thing to work towards and to support. When you see the results and see the people we are helping, all those stressful work days disappear. It makes it all worth it.’

Join CAF head of external affairs Caroline Mallan and Parkinson’s UK head of supporter engagement Emily Sturdy for discussion of the impact the pandemic has had on the charity sector as well as its path to recovery – sign up for the 17 March webinar The great Covid bounce back for Charities?.

For advice on helping local charities, read this guest post from Spike’s Andre Gwilliam.

For how charities managing to create inspirational campaigns on low budget (and how you can do the same), read advice shared by Tiny Tickers and The Wildlife Trusts here.

Weekly Health Summary

Covid-19: Weekly Health Summary – 11 March

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

NHS Test and Trace

A report published by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on NHS Test and Trace (NHST&T) has argued that despite the ‘unimaginable’ cost, the scheme has failed to deliver on its central promise of averting another lockdown. The Committee argued it is hard to justify the cost of the scheme, which is over £37bn, after it found no clear evidence of the NHST&T’s overall effectiveness and its contribution to reducing Covid-19 infection levels.

The Committee Chair Meg Hillier said: ‘DHSC and NHST&T must rapidly turn around these fortunes and begin to demonstrate the worth and value of this staggering investment of taxpayers’ money…British taxpayers cannot be treated by Government like an ATM machine. We need to see a clear plan and costs better controlled.’

Labour said that the report shows the failures of the outsourced scheme and that it ‘underlines the epic amounts of waste and incompetence, an overreliance on management consultants, taxpayers’ cash splashed on crony contracts, all while ministers insist our NHS heroes deserve nothing more than a clap and a pay cut. The Conservatives’ wasteful obsession with outsourcing must end and contact tracing should be run by our public health teams.’

Although the Government is yet to respond to the report, the Prime Minister has recently praised NHST&T for its impact on getting children back into school and enabling the country to ‘cautiously and irreversibly’ reopen its economy. Also on Tuesday, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock praised the NHST&T team for successfully testing 1.5m people in one day.

NHS staff pay rise

The debate on NHS staff pay following on from their work during the pandemic has continued this week. This comes after last week the Government proposed a 1% rise in NHS staff pay, which Labour argues is actually a pay cut after inflation.

Speaking to the House of Commons on Wednesday, Labour Leader Kier Starmer said: ‘The mask really is slipping, and we can see what the Conservative party now stands for: cutting pay for nurses; putting taxes up on families. He has had the opportunity to change course, but he has refused to do so.’

NHS Providers called the pay proposal a ‘disappointment’ and said a real terms pay increase ‘would go some way towards recognising and rewarding the contribution and the sacrifices that the NHS workforce has made over the past year.’

The Government has repeatedly justified its decision; on Wednesday the Prime Minister highlighted that the Government has delivered a 12.8% increase in the starting salary of nurses over the last three years and has boosted nursing recruitment. An independent pay review will make a final recommendation for NHS staff pay in the coming months, until then, it is likely that this debate will rumble on.

NHS waiting lists 

NHS England data published this morning shows the full extent of the impact of the second coronavirus wave on non-Covid-19 health services. 4.59m patients were waiting to start elective care treatment at the end of January 2021, with 304,044 of these patients waiting over a year. Waiting times for cancer treatment have also increased.

Nuffield Trust highlighted that the NHS waiting list is now at the highest point since records began in August 2007. It suggested that although non-Covid activity has been higher than in the first wave, the pandemic response has slowed the stream of routine and it is likely that with referrals to GPs also falling in January, there is a hidden patient group not yet on the waiting list that will need treatment in the future. It calls for a plan to boost NHS capacity, with additional resources as the damage from the pandemic is likely to be felt in years ahead.

The Health Foundation also called for additional support for the NHS and staff. Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said: ‘The Government and NHS leaders will now need to be clear with the public about how they intend to deal with the backlog of unmet need, as well as achieve the ambitions to modernise care set out in the NHS long term plan. This will need significant investment at the next Spending Review, in particular if we are to see improvement on waiting lists and plugging staff shortages, which are holding back progress.’

Covid-19 vaccine

The roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine has successfully continued this week, with latest figures showing that over 22m people have had their first dose. The roll out is now reaching all people over 55 and those in the priority groups. 40,000 unpaid careers are also eligible for the vaccine from this week. The Health Secretary Matt Hancock recently said that the Government is on track to offer a first dose to the entire adult population by the end of July.

In a speech to the Global COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Chain and Manufacturing Summit, Hancock attributed the UK’s vaccine success to investing early into vaccine research and clinical trials around the world, as well as adopting an ambitious roll-out schedule.

Weekly Economy Summary

COVID-19: Weekly Economy Summary – 11 March

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

During last week’s Budget, the Chancellor tried to balance the support provided to the economy with the need to begin the work of fixing our public finances. As expected, the Chancellor extended existing support, such as the job support schemes, the Universal Credit uplift, business rate holidays and VAT cuts to reflect the cautious reopening of the economy set out in the roadmap.

While some argued that the Universal Credit uplift should have been extended beyond the six months announced, others welcomed the increase in generosity of the self-employed scheme. Given the different impact on different sectors of the economy, the targeted Restart Grants to the sectors worst hit by restrictions have been much welcomed by small firms in the hospitality industry with cash problems. The Chancellor also announced a new Recovery Loan Scheme that will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on eligible loans.

Further ahead, in April 2023, the rate of corporation tax paid on company profits will increase to 25% on profits over £250,000. To soften the blow, the Chancellor announced that for the next two years, companies can reduce their tax bill when investing via a ‘super deduction’ of 130% of the cost. He also froze income tax thresholds from next April for four years, which is considered a good way for the Government to raise revenue without causing economic distortion.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) thinks the economy will ‘bounce back’ in the near-term as restrictions are eased. The OBR expects growth to return from Q2 2021, with GDP forecast to reach pre-Covid levels earlier than previously expected and unemployment to be better than forecast.

When Commons Treasury Committee members talked about the huge stimulus package in the US and asked if the Chancellor did enough to stimulate growth, the OBR committee member and former Bank of England deputy governor Sir Charlie Bean explained that the size of the output gap is difficult to measure because the response to the pandemic has involved pushing down on both demand and supply in roughly equal measure. As the restrictions are eased, he expects both of them to come back.

In its central forecast, the OBR does not think there is that large a margin of spare capacity, the output gap is quite small, so it would not make sense to have a large demand stimulation. He mentioned that in respect to the Biden plan in the US, many economists who are generally in favour of greater use of fiscal policy think the size of the stimulus is far too big relative to the likely size of the output gap.

If you are considering supporting demand, it is not obvious that there needs to be substantial policy stimulus at this point. It might turn out that this is wrong, and that demand does not recover as quickly as supply, in which case it will be sensible for either the Bank of England or the Chancellor to add additional stimulus. But as things are at the moment, the margin of spare capacity is expected to be quite small during the reopening phase of the economy.

While the Financial Secretary to the Treasury previously said that if the economy is strong, they might not need to raise taxes to fix public finances, Sir Charlie Bean told MPs on the Commons Treasury Committee that the important thing here is not so much slightly faster growth next year but really the scarring assumptions. If they do not see a high level of scarring, then the same sort of fiscal consolidation is not needed in the medium-term. Equally, if the scarring turns out to be greater than they expect, potentially more consolidation will be required. OBR’s central assessment is 3% medium-term scarring, but that number could go either way.

PRCA campaign #HireaPRCAmember

PRCA launches #HireaPRCAmember campaign

The PRCA is asking organisations to prioritise its members when hiring employees, freelancers and agencies with its global #HireaPRCAmember campaign, launching today.

The initiative’s first focus will be to encourage companies seeking external support with PR to priorities those who are part of the PRCA. As part of this aim, the industry body is profiling consultancies that have held its Communications Management Standard (CMS) for more than 15, ten and five years on PRCA channels and giving Gold awards for the longstanding accreditees.

Companies in the top bracket, with the longest accreditation are:
• Firefly Communications
• FleishmanHillard UK
• Garnett Keeler Public Relations
• Good Relations and Good Relations Property
• Grayling
• Harvard
• Hill+Knowlton Strategies
• Kaizo
• Lansons Communications
• Red Consultancy

The campaign will also include the sharing of resources as well as upcoming events to aid those hiring in-house, the availability of a toolkit for PRCA members to participate in the campaign, support from the PRCA’s Matchmaker Service and additional social and digital content underlining the importance of ethical and professional standards.

‘Reputation now matters like never before for organisations of all sizes, in all sectors, across the world,’ said PRCA director general Francis Ingham. ‘The pandemic has made this crystal clear, and it has also accelerated the pre-existing shift towards purpose-led, ethical business.’

‘All this means that organisations considering bringing in PR support ought to consider hiring only those consultancies which can be trusted to act ethically, are held accountable to a robust code of conduct, and committed to high professional standards’.

Find out more about the #HireaPRCAmember campaign on the PRCA website.

Is the PR and comms industry doing enough to be intersectional

International Women’s Day 2021: Is the PR and comms industry doing enough to be intersectional?

International Women’s Day is a yearly catalyst for greater consideration and action for gender equality within the PR and comms space, but is enough work being done when it comes to intersectionality as part of the push forward towards gender parity?

We asked women working across UK PR for their opinion on whether the industry is doing enough to create a truly intersectional workforce in 2021.

‘Probably not – but it’s wrong to pretend that unpicking the various structural inequalities and entrenched biases is easy. At least there is movement in the right direction. In my role on the PRCA’s PR Council this year we’re focusing on women returners, BAME representation at senior level and social mobility, but we’re under no illusions, there are always more layers of diversity – disability, sexuality, gender identity, religion, neurodivergence…

‘As an Asian woman myself, there have definitely been times where I’ve felt like the odd one out and at a disadvantage in my professional life, but I’m pleased to say that I’ve never suffered the kind of mistreatment that certainly still goes on in this and other industries.’ – Tas Bhanji, Blakeney

‘More can be done to support intersectionality at an industry level – e.g. intersection of feminism with race/ableism/LGBTQ+ rights, etc. PR is a female-dominated industry, but we have to look at this as a whole not being individualistic when we discuss progress. A greater range of voices means greater representation and understanding.’ – Sian Gaskell, Cuban Eight

‘A few years ago, I was talking to a US CFO who remarked on the narrowness of the diversity conversation in the UK and within UK businesses. We’re an industry that prides itself on being a community of creative, solution providers who can work across multiple issues and campaigns simultaneously yet there remains so much more to be done to make the industry truly inclusive for all. Real change requires real work and consideration and we can all be guilty of being inconsiderate of others.

‘I can hold my hands up and acknowledge that during lockdown, I’d been complaining about virtual events being poor substitutes for real life sessions and had to have it pointed out to me that virtual events can make it easier for people that a) aren’t based in London or the South East b) are not able-bodied and others to gain access to the same connections, knowledge and insight.’  – Addy Frederick, PrudentialWomen in PR and UK Black Comms Network

‘Sadly, many of our clients and employers still act as if the world of work is stuck in the beginning of the 20th century.’ – Ella Minty, #PowerAndInfluence

‘We definitely need to do more on intersectionality. We have practitioners who are multiply-disadvantaged not only by gender but by race, disability, age, sexuality, background and other factors. We should celebrate the diversity of our industry and recognise that talent comes in all forms. That means working with business and leadership to shift the culture and mindset.’ – Mandy Pearse, Seashell Communications and CIPR

‘Women, especially women of colour, are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis, stalling their careers and jeopardising their financial security. The pandemic has intensified challenges that women already faced.

‘If the PR industry doesn’t step up and continue to step up, we’ll potentially end up with far fewer women in PR, PR leadership, and far fewer women on track to be future leaders. The PR industry needs to flex its muscles like never before and support its women.’ – Kerry Sheehan, CIPR

‘One key aspect of intersectionality is that we need to deal with discrimination before we can make real progress on goals such as the environment or the economy. This is absolutely true of the PR and comms industry. The latest CIPR State of the Profession report demonstrates clearly that not enough progress has been made on widening representation in the PR industry of people from all ethnic groups, and all income groups and backgrounds. There is a persistent over-representation of people who were privately-educated, and a persistent under-representation of women in more senior positions.

‘This is evidenced by a continuing gender pay gap, though the good news is, it is shrinking. To what extent all these issues (and others) are linked, bears further scrutiny and as professionals, we should keep up with mainstream business research too. It’s difficult to see how the PR industry can meet its wider goals and communicate effectively with all its publics until these disparities are redressed. That’s why, for instance, increasing diversity of membership, and of the industry at large is one of the key goals of the CIPR Scotland committee (of which I’m a member). Laura Sutherland, PRCA Scotland Chair, is also doing some great work this year on diversity issues through the #PRFest community.’ – Claire Munro, Zero Waste Scotland

‘There still seems to be a reluctance to recognise the many distinct intersections of identity and what true inclusion means, which is very odd given that we are supposed to be able to be active thinkers on behalf of our organisations and clients. The industry itself doesn’t do enough and even when it makes a step it rarely feels progressive.’ – Ronke Lawal, Ariatu Public Relations

‘The drive to increase awareness and take action on this is a task my daughter’s generation will still be striving for. However, we have a choice to make now in how we create the environment for future leaders to step into. I’m confident that the choices we make today to create a fairer society will benefit many generations of PR and Comms professionals.

‘Choosing to work in PR should be a choice that’s open to everyone and celebrate what makes up the richness of our society. That includes having diversity of thought, background and gender. There’s always more that could be done.’  Rachel Miller, All Things IC

‘The answer is a simple no. There is a lot more work to do here. The 2020 PRCA Census reported that while the number of Black and ethnically diverse professionals had increased incrementally to 12% (from 10% in 2019), these professionals were overwhelmingly in junior roles. Couple this with the CIPR’s ‘Race in PR: BAME lived experiences in the UK PR industry’ report, which is sobering reading and it appears we are not committed to inclusivity at all. It’s down to people like me to use our power and influence to make the system fairer for everyone.’ – Sarah Waddington, Astute.Work and #FuturePRoof

For more on the women PRs featured in this piece, check out our interviews with Sian GaskellRonke LawalTas Bhanji, Mandy PearseRachel Miller, and Ella Minty as well as features on the work being done by Sarah WaddingtonLaura SutherlandAddy Frederick, Shayoni Lynn and Kerry Sheehan.

PR Club International Women's Day

5 ways to make work and life better for women in PR

For 2021’s International Women’s Day, we’ve spoken to 12 women working across PR and comms to get their thoughts on what would make the PR industry a more welcoming, fair and inclusive place for all women, every day…

1) Inclusivity
‘We need to strive for more inclusivity, mentoring and women in senior roles in the industry for young women coming into the profession to aspire to. PR and comms are significant to the success of any business today – and there is a huge female contingent driving that – and that needs to be taken seriously.’ – Sian Gaskell, Cuban Eight

‘It would be remiss of me not to state that as a Black woman in PR it sometimes feels like the industry actively overlooks Black women in the industry and that is alienating – not because I require validation because, to be fair, I have a great network and I’ve made myself visible to inspire other women to showcase their work, but because it shouldn’t take individual efforts from women like Kamiqua Pearce (founder of UK Black Comms) or Elizabeth Bananuka (Founder of BME PR Pros) to make Black women feel seen.’ – Ronke Lawal, Ariatu Public Relations

2) More time, resources and development
‘More time, more automation and AI to truly take away the brunt of all the process-driven elements, freeing up time for what matters most, strategy, leadership, ethics and more creativity. And, importantly, time for continuing to learn, develop and have fun!’ – Kerry Sheehan, CIPR

‘I’ve been heartened to see the discussions about roles and responsibilities, flexible working and creating equality for career opportunities. There’s still a long way to go. I’d love to see companies investing in closing the integrity gap between what they say and do and bringing values of fairness to life, so their employees can thrive.’ – Rachel Miller, All Things IC

3) Diversity in leadership
‘We need more female leaders representing the diversity of the PR industry. We are nowhere near as representative as we could be and we need to champion our diversity and be proud of it. This includes visibility across events, membership bodies and industry initiatives.’ – Shayoni Lynn, Lynn PR

‘Making it possible for women to progress in their careers is so important. Yes, we can be creative, hard-working, motivated, and driven, but there needs to be a shift in workplace culture and opportunities. Flexible working, mentoring schemes, as well as education around gender bias at the executive levels are all key to change, and that’s long-term change, not just ticking an HR box on policies. Women have a huge amount of experience, skills, and potential, and this needs to be seen and acted upon from the very beginning of careers, right up to leadership level.’ Natalie Trice, coach and mentor for PR professionals

4) Flexible working
‘I’d really like organisations to remember that women not only take on the bulk of childcare responsibilities but also caring responsibilities in general. We will all be working longer so it’s highly likely that women working in their 40s, 50s and 60s will also be juggling care for parents. So, flexible approaches to work patterns, portfolio careers and judging on outcomes not hours all need to be part of the answer.’ – Mandy Pearse, Seashell Communications and CIPR

‘I imagine for my fellow women in PR with younger children, the work/life balance right now is a big struggle and this is something all businesses will need to think about and consult on, in preparation for coming out of lockdown. Hats off for surviving until now. I’ve loved seeing all your creative work with your kids!’ – Laura Sutherland, PRFest and Aura PR

‘There needs to be greater flexibility around working hours and just injecting a bit more humanity and empathy into the world of work – whenever you’re talking to someone, there should be an understanding that they are more than their job title. Neither of those things need to mean accepting worse results for clients – in fact, they should improve them.

‘The industry is often guilty of saying things like ‘increased flexibility will help mothers’. It is of course true, but framing it in a gendered manner negates the fact that fathers can also take extended parental leave or work part-time around family commitments, and entrenches outdated stereotypes around careers, families and work-life balance.

‘I know from personal experience that coming back to work after becoming a mother is a tough time, but it can also be very rewarding – I hope you’ll excuse the plug [we do – go for it], but I’m delighted to be hosting a PRCA event on this topic on Friday 26 March, with the amazing campaign group Pregnant then Screwed. Non-members also welcome!’ – Tas Bhanji, Blakeney

5) Transparency on those ‘competitive’ salaries
‘I’m not looking for my work/life to be made easier as a woman working in the industry. I’m very capable and good at my job. What would be helpful is greater gender equality, starting with better efforts to close the gender pay gap!’ – Melissa Lawrence, Taylor Bennett Foundation

‘Back in 2015 I wrote this article on the gender gap in PR for the very first #FuturePRoof book. While the statistics might be outdated and we have since seen a surge of women appointed to top roles, the ten steps for achieving parity of pay are still as necessary now as they were back then. I feel I can speak on behalf of women generally when I say not having to perennially fight this battle would be a big win.’ – Sarah Waddington, Astute.Work and #FuturePRoof

‘I’m a member of the Women in PR and the UK Black Comms Network committees. These groups seek to increase the seniority of female and Black talent in the industry. I would love for the industry to be in a place where these groups were surplus to requirements. I would love for hiring organisations to publish their salary bands for roles.

‘I mentor several female PR professionals and they are always concerned about asking for too much when they go for a new role. The use of ‘competitive’ in lieu of pay bands and asking for a person’s current salary only serves to bake in any pay gap inequality. For a female heavy industry, it’s not great that the best advice I was ever given about salaries, which I now give is to always ask a man if you want to get a sense of the true market rate for a role.’ – Addy Frederick, Prudential, Women in PR and UK Black Comms Network

For more on the women PRs featured in this piece, check out our interviews with Sian Gaskell, Ronke Lawal, Tas Bhanji, Melissa Lawrence, Mandy Pearse, Rachel Miller and Natalie Trice as well as features on the work being done by Sarah Waddington, Laura Sutherland, Addy Frederick, Shayoni Lynn and Kerry Sheehan.

Cut for time Katie Phillips

Cut for time: extra answers from our accessmatters session with KDP Coaching & Consulting’s Katie Phillips

Our accessmatters session with KDP Coaching & Consulting’s Katie Phillips focused on how we can all prevent burnout and protect our mental wellbeing while working through stressful situations.

Watch the full accessmatters session with Katie Phillips here.

Sharing how her 15 years of experience in government, corporate and start-up communications led to her own burnout a few years ago, Katie detailed the signs to look for in colleagues, employees and ourselves when it comes to mental wellbeing and launching her own consultancy to tackle the issue.

We ran out of time to answer all of the questions that came in during the session, so Katie has very kindly answered additional questions on company culture and the approach of start-ups versus big corporate organisations when it comes to mental health…

How much does company culture matter? And what if the culture doesn’t lend itself to a caring approach but you as a manager are much more aware of it?

Company culture is super important. People need to feel safe, supported and able to speak up. If that isn’t the case, mental wellbeing will suffer and that will have a domino effect on productivity, creativity and relationships. If the culture isn’t caring, then that manager really needs to get some allies if they want to push the cause. Doing it alone will be draining. I wrote about how to do this recently.

Are there market sectors, in your experience, that are better at this stuff than others? Does a small start-up find it more difficult to have a concerted approach to this than, say, a big corporate with a HR department and big budgets?

It’s generally reported that the public sector does better in terms of supporting the mental health of employees than the private. The CIPD have done reports which go into more detail about what that looks like more specifically across industries.
Having a bigger budget is helpful but doesn’t always mean that it has the biggest impact. Smaller organisations that are willing to look at the core of how their business is run can do just as well with a relatively small budget. Many of my clients fall into this category and it’s their openness rather than money or internal structures that I feel have the biggest impact. It doesn’t need to be complex or expensive to be valuable!

Here are some useful resources for starting to tackle mental health at work for those with little to no budget…

Burnout Prevention: How to support yourself and your team
How to start a conversation about mental health
How to improve your teams’ Mental Health (Clue: it’s not with Employee Wellbeing perks)

Read our overview of our accessmatters session with Katie Phillips here and watch the full video on the accessmatters website.

Life With Bugo

Influencer Insight: Life With Bugo

What does blogger Bugo of Life With Bugo love most about living in London? ‘Brunches, wandering around pretty spots and visiting historical monuments – London lifestyle is my everyday life, so it’s easy to blog about my day!’

Being locked down in London hasn’t stopped Bugo from sharing the best of the capital with her readers – check out her favourite things to write about and recommendations for what to do this weekend if you’re London-based.

How did you get started with blogging about life in London?
I moved to London over six years ago and fell in love with the city. When I decided to start blogging, I initially was going to focus on travel only but decided to incorporate London lifestyle into my blogging journey. London lifestyle is natural to me as it is my everyday life, so it was just easy to blog about going about my day – brunches, wandering around pretty spots and visiting historic monuments!

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
Brunch and pretty spots, mainly. I’m very visual and I love highlighting the beauty of the city. I am a firm believer in romanticising everything and I love a bit of escapism so I focus on that. If I enjoy it, I blog about it!

How have you changed your approach and content during lockdown?
I did not really change my approach much, I just took some breaks when things got overwhelming. I have a day job and I was also homeschooling my 13-year-old brother, so these two took precedence during lockdown. Prior to lockdown, I had some content that I was able to spread as well – mainly my international travel content. I was also able to take some photos during my daily walk and I stuck to Instagram Stories more to keep my audience engaged.

Quick recommendations for things for Londoners to do during the pandemic?
Walk and cycle are my two favourite recommendations. If you like to walk, this is the best time to discover how far you can walk and what you can discover. I discovered my borough had a few parks which I didn’t know about pre-lockdown. The Santander Cycles are fantastic and get you from point A to B in London while allowing you social distance as well. I recommend you download the Santander Cycles TFL app, map your route and get cycling.

What makes London the best city in the world?
Oh, so many things. The social life, complete freedom, working in the city, lovely parks in summer, the Underground is second to none, summer and spring evening walks, (window) shopping in Harrods; there is just so much. I feel like I’m living my dream life in this city and it’s not something I know how to explain. I almost feel like I have endless possibilities here and I am able to create my happiness.

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had in London?
A boat canal ride with GoBoat London on the London canals. It was so much fun self-driving our boat and just exploring from Paddington to Maida Vale and Little Venice. That was such a fun Saturday!

What are you most looking forward to doing when the world opens back up again?
International travel – I’m ready to leave England now!

How do you collaborate with brands, and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I have not collaborated with any brands yet as I am quite selective with who I’d like to work with. I would like to work with brands that align with what I am building.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
I’d prefer they approached me via email. I’m looking to partner with brands that promote London (and UK) tourism. I also would love brunch invites to review fancy brunch locations. Brands that will give allow me to create and not dictate what they’d like to see in a review or post.

Which blogs do you regularly check out?
Usually the same blogs in my niche – travel and London lifestyle blogs. I also like luxury Fashion and just general lifestyle, so I read some of those as well.

Looking for more on London lifestyle? Check out our Top 10 London Lifestyle Blogs.

Reach-the-right-influencers-with-the-Vuelio-media-database

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.