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Adapting to the new normal and readying for the recovery: In conversation with Councillor Iain Malcolm

Councillor Iain Malcolm, Chair of the North East Combined Authority, explains the importance of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group and his aspirations for its work now and in the future.

There has never been a more important time for a strategic approach to economic leadership as the North East business community strives to overcome the challenges created by COVID-19.

That’s why here at the North East Combined Authority, we have joined forces with the North of Tyne Combined Authority, CBI and North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), to ensure one coherent and consistent approach that will make the greatest impact in the shortest possible timeframe.

We recognise that everyone is having to adapt to a new normal and that it’s hard. In light of this, our immediate focus is on supporting businesses to remain operational, to keep people in employment and to work with partners to solve industry challenges.

Right now, the Group is working at pace to understand the challenges faced by the business community, which is why all partners have been circulating this survey. Please do complete it if you haven’t already as it will help us implement the right solutions and ensure we can signpost those in need to appropriate assistance.

We are also keen to gather data on any particular skills that may be in short supply, such as front line retail staff and drivers. Where this is the case, our goal is to connect organisations in need with available workforce so please do feed this information back.

Of course, there will come a time when restrictions start to ease and life starts to look more like the world we knew. We’re aware that the self-employed, business owners and management teams will face difficult decisions about precisely when and how to restart operations. Our intention is to have plenty of appropriate advice and support ready at that point. The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group webpage is a good place to check for regular updates.

Finally, we know that the impact of Coronavirus extends way beyond the business world and is impacting people on a very human level. On behalf of the Group, I’d like to pass on condolences to all those who have been recently bereaved, as well as our best wishes to those who have family, friends or colleagues who are ill.

I’d also like to express our huge appreciation of the NHS and other front line workers. My personal thanks go to everyone living and working here in the North East for your solidarity, community spirit and forbearance.