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CEO Blog: September 2020

As we approach six months since the Government introduced the England and Wales lockdown, it offers an opportunity for us all to reflect on the challenges, the milestones achieved and, most importantly of all, what is to come next.
On 21st April 2020, Croydon BID launched ‘Raise The Bar’, a campaign created with our co-founder, Andy Taylor of Mr Fox Croydon. With the support of the local authority, national partners, Business Improvement Districts, political figures from all sides of the house, we have delivered. As a result of the lobbying pressure and campaigning nationwide, local authorities used their discretionary funding under phase 2 to ensure businesses with a rateable value of £51k+ received the grants they deserved. Working with Croydon Council, we have ensured a number of venues in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector received grants ranging from £10k to £25k. In total, Croydon Council distributed £2.8million to 597 businesses. 
 
We have been a central partner in the reopening of the town centre and in particular the reopening of the retail core on 15th June 2020 and the hospitality sector from 4th July 2020. The logistical challenges to open a town centre under social distancing guidelines is not to be underestimated. 
 
The introduction of the Croydon Champions, led by my team and thanks to the support of Croydon Voluntary Action and their volunteers, offered reassurance and a point at which to rebuild confidence. Combined with signage across the town centre from lamp post surrounds, posters, information towers, queue management stencils and the recent lamp post banners, we hope to have offered consistency of message as we look to welcome people back safely. 
 
Croydon continues to perform relatively well when reviewing footfall. Croydon BID has invested in three footfall cameras for the town centre monitoring key access routes into the main shopping areas. In July 2020, footfall was up 27.7% against June and in August, as many of us enjoyed Eat Out to Help Out, footfall figures grew a further 9.,3% compared to July. However, when comparing August figures, we are still 37.9% down year on year. The gap is closing but not fast enough. People are rediscovering Croydon, no question. However, not necessarily because they want to but because confidence travelling in the way we may have done before is low. It’s an opportunity for us all to work closer with our communities, promote what is great about our town centre and borough and welcome people back.
 
The challenges that lie ahead are immense and many would forgive the sentiment that we have hardly touched the surface as we continue to battle a worldwide pandemic. . The way we work has changed dramatically and many would suggest that the change is irreversible with significantly higher levels of flexible working. 
 
Croydon is a hub for the commercial sector with significant transport links into central London and out to the coast. The challenge, as we aim to move forward and build on the summer’s increase in footfall, is how we can work with the commercial sector to encourage a greater number back into the offices. Croydon’s commercial sector is significant, with 43.4% of busineses from industries including: information and communications, financial and insurance, professional, scientific and technical and business administration and support services. We could be considered as a public sector ‘super hub’ with the Home Office, HMRC, Land Registry and local authority as major employers in the borough. 
 
Greater clarity is required from the Government on returning to work with a concerted campaign that brings together the transport networks.  This would include promoting a clear message of reassurance for businesses and their employees that builds confidence for those that need and must travel on public transport. Croydon BID intends to work with local transport providers, alongside our partners, to boost confidence in returning to work, promoting out the safety measures in place to ensure safety for all. 
 
I am encouraged by the discussions the Government is having with transport operators such as the train franchises in the hope that season tickets could be made more flexible for those that can return to the office on two or three days per week. Solutions such as this would provide a further boost to the local economy, bringing further people back in a managed and safe way that supports each and every one of us. 
 
It won’t be achieved overnight but if we work through the challenges together in the same way we have across the past six months, I am hopeful many of our back offices will return to their desks in greater numbers. 
 
The greatest challenge ahead for all of us is how the pandemic will react during the winter months. As cases begin to increase and the suspected second wave takes hold, we may see more localised lockdowns similar to those that we have seen in areas such as Leicester, Bolton and Blackburn. The ‘Rule of 6’, reducing social gatherings from 30 to 6 is designed to make it clearer for you and me on a daily basis. What is important is that we all need to consider and prepare for wider restrictions should the pandemic spike further. 
 
There is no rule book to this pandemic – we are literally responding day by day. What I can tell you is this: Croydon BID will, as it has always done, fight tooth and nail to support your business during what are unprecedented times. 
 
My team are always here for you. Get in touch, and chat through your concerns. 
 
Most importantly of all, stay safe. See you soon.
 
Matt
 
 

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