As we all get used to the second lockdown there are difficulties for huge numbers of people, ranging from churchgoers to gym enthusiasts. But my biggest worry is the effect on businesses, as keeping people at work is so important for reasons that go well beyond the economic.
It was timely, then, that I had remote meetings set up with both the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce and the Kent Federation of Small Business to discuss both the lockdown and the extension of the furlough scheme announced last week by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
To be honest I was surprised by the level of positive thinking from those who are guiding their businesses through this most difficult period. Everyone seemed very realistic about the scale of the problem facing the Government, and indeed every government around the world, and were optimistic about their own business’s chances of coming through to the other side.
There was widespread agreement that the furlough scheme has been a great success, and that the flexibility of the grants and loans available have been a real help. Most companies seem to be using the loans in a sensible way, though there is some evidence of people taking them out irresponsibly, and perhaps just delaying the inevitable.
I am very aware that a number of freelances and other self-employed people think they have fallen through the gaps in the rescue packages. There is also now a hunger for a sense of the long-term strategy, assuming that we will be back to something like normal in the course of the next year.
It is important not to minimise the difficulties. Some firms have made redundancies, and some are moving to smaller offices permanently. But the resilience of Ashford business is impressive and gives hope for a solid recovery when conditions permit.