Coronavirus business update: Latest news across the North West

Cllr Sean Fielding

Businesses in Greater Manchester have been urged to use millions of pounds that are available for apprenticeship training as part of a package of support to recover from COVID-19.

Up to £4m is currently available in the city region to pay training fees – at no cost to the employing organisation.

The call comes after new figures revealed the success of a Greater Manchester scheme to transfer the unspent millions of pounds allocated for apprenticeship training from large employers to small- and medium-sized businesses.

The Greater Manchester apprenticeship levy matchmaking service has supported more than 240 apprenticeships, spread across more than 50 businesses, since it was launched in August 2019.

The service is commissioned by Greater Manchester Combined Authority and is provided by the Manufacturing Institute, part of the Growth Company.

Cllr Sean Fielding, Greater Manchester lead for employment, skills and digital, said: “Improving the skills of our workforce is absolutely essential to the success of Greater Manchester’s economy.

“Apprenticeships build higher level and technical skills both for young people and for existing and older employees, helping them to become more productive and efficient.

“The levy matchmaking service provides the funding for the apprenticeship training at no cost to the employer and it also helps to develop great relationships between big companies and the smaller organisations they support in this way.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, added: “As we go into a recovery phase from the COVID-19 crisis it is clear that we must renew our focus on improving skills and investing our workforce.

“We know some people will lose their jobs in sectors that have been worst hit, but there will be opportunities for them to retrain and develop skills in areas of growth.

“This funding will help businesses to recover and to grow, particularly in the sectors identified in our local industrial strategy.”

Mo Isap, co-chair of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “As our region recovers from COVID-19 the need to support our young people and ensure that our workforce has the skills required to thrive is greater than ever.

“That’s why I’m calling on any organisation with unspent apprenticeship levy to take part in the GMCA Apprenticeship Levy Matchmaking Service.”

Organisations can register with the site on www.levymatchmakingservice.co.uk and state what their requirement for training is.

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Revolution

Manchester-based Revolution Bars Group is stepping up its phased reopening of venues following the coronavirus pandemic.

The first doors to open were Revolution Bristol, Liverpool Albert Dock Huddersfield and Brighton, as well as Revolucion de Cuba Derby and Manchester, on July 6.

Since then RBG has also opened Revolution Durham, Clapham Junction, Cambridge, York, Southampton, and Nottingham Cornerhouse, as well as Revolucion de Cuba Belfast, Aberdeen, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Birmingham, Leeds and Norwich.

The next opening date of today, August 3, will see Revolution Newcastle, Leeds Electric Press, Stafford, Glasgow Mitchell Street, Bath and Nottingham Hockley, along with Revolucion de Cuba Harrogate and Revolucion de Cuba Nottingham open their doors.

Chief executive, Rob Pitcher, said: “The safety of our guests and teams is our top priority and we have been working hard behind the scenes over the last few months to find ways to be able to get the party started again in the safest way possible.

“By taking a phased approach to opening our venues, the improvements we’ve made to the bookings platform on our brands’ websites, and with our team members trained to the highest standard of safe operating procedures, we can ensure our guests and teams are as safe as possible. We are looking forward to bringing our brands back for our guests to enjoy a place of escapism and have some fun.”

The group is also participating in the Government’s ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme. Sites that are currently open and are scheduled to open throughout August will be offering customers 50% off all meals and soft drinks Monday to Wednesday.

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Tea break box

International food supplement and health product manufacturer Nutrition Group is helping NHS heroes at one of the country’s best-known hospitals ‘take a break’ from their work on the coronavirus frontline.

The Blackpool-based health supplements and sports nutrition sector contract manufacturer has donated 100,000 protein bars which are now being distributed to staff at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

It is all part of an initiative to persuade the hospital’s 11,000 staff to take some time to “pause and recharge”.

The bars are part of special ‘tea break boxes’ that also contain tea, biscuits, ‘Top Trumps’ cards and other goodies.

Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT) has created the boxes, which are being distributed throughout the Cambridge hospital, which is internationally-renowned for its pioneering transplant work.

Nutrition Group, which supplies some of the world’s most renowned nutrition brands, got involved in the initiative through its links with nutritional ingredients supplier Cambridge Commodities.

Nutrition Group chief executive Richard Greathead said: “We were only too pleased to do something to show our support for NHS frontline workers and the incredible work they do.

“It’s really important that they do take that moment to pause and recharge and to take a break and we hope our donation will help them to do that.

“The past few months has been incredibly challenging for everyone working in the NHS. More than ever they deserve that well-earned break, which is so important for people’s wellbeing.”

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Cllr Janette Williamson

The suspension of council car parking charges in Wirral will continue into the Autumn to help boost local businesses.

On-street parking charges as well as those at council car parks and the country parks were suspended at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in March.

This was extended for a further month and now the leader of Wirral Labour Group and cabinet member for finance & resources, Cllr Janette Williamson, has announced plans to continue the extension as part of a series of steps to support the Wirral economy.

Cllr Williamson said: “As the borough moves to the next phase of tackling the coronavirus pandemic, more businesses have been reopening. But I know many of them are still struggling.

“Wirral Council has been one of the leading authorities in helping local businesses and traders during the pandemic and I am determined to continue that good work.

“By extending the suspension of car parking charges we can help encourage more people who may be wary of public transport at this time to visit their local shops and support them, and by doing so support local workers.

“And by allowing the continuation of free parking at our country parks I hope people will use this to help keep healthy and take regular exercise while also maintaining social distancing.”

The cost of suspending parking charges is estimated to be in the region of £30,000 to £50,000 per month and was not part of the budget for 2020-2021, as set last year.

Some additional funding for tackling the impacts of the pandemic and the lockdown, including help for businesses, has been provided by the Government, although none of that funding is able to be used to replace income lost from suspending parking charges.

Cllr Williamson said: “The Government has already made some extra funds available which have supported Wirral’s response to the pandemic and, along with other local authorities, we await news of further funding and flexibilities to deal with the current budget situation.”

It is proposed that the issue of car parking charges be reviewed at the first meeting of the cross-party Policy and Resources Committee when it meets for the first time in October.

A wholesale review of parking charges across the borough has been requested and a report will also be available for the committee to consider.

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