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Solihull has stepped up – so let’s stay positive

Solihull Chamber president Robert Elliot looks at how businesses in the borough have reacted to the Covid-19 lockdown, and how the region’s future economy might recover from the crisis.

Twenty years from now students will have a module in the curriculum entitled ‘Covid-19 – Global Pandemic’. They will have studied incidents that have changed the world such as 9/11, or momentarily caused great disruption to a large part of the world such as the ash cloud. Can you imagine their reaction to the grief and

the effect Covid-19 had on our lives in 2020. These students will go home and ask their parents and grandparents what they remember. “Were the shops really closed? Did everyone have to stay indoors? Could you not meet your friends at the pub?” I have heard the expression ‘unprecedented

times’ many times. At first this seemed to describe the change to our lifestyles, working practices, and general way of life. It was often part of a negative conversation about coronavirus. What has struck me in more recent times is that

this unprecedented phrase has started to be used in more positive terms. It has been used in positive ways when describing peoples’ efforts to make the best of an extraordinary set of circumstances. Solihull as a borough has stepped up, and

increasingly there is positive news, and hopefully positive outcomes. Many Chamber of Commerce members, local authorities, representative bodies, and volunteers have been true examples of what is great about Solihull and the West Midlands. The creation of NHS Nightingale at the NEC is an

example of true teamwork and co-operation. Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council worked closely with planning and licensing departments to make the creation of the hospital possible.

Hundreds of local people were involved in building, and fitting out the facility, and what was created is a triumph for co-operation and determination. Local companies are stepping up too. Recruitment

companies are busy placing candidates into services needed for the effort against the virus. Working from home is becoming the norm, IT companies have excelled in setting up previously office based employees with working networks. What of the future. When does the future start

again? The irony of looking into the future is that when Covid-19 took hold, business was generally good, indications were that 2020 and the next few years might be strong. There’s a number of factors that might change

this, but equally a degree of positivity can be grasped upon. The fact that NHS Nightingale was created at the

NEC proved the potential in terms of facility, but equally the huge advantage of location that area has. Useful then that just recently HS2 was given the ‘Notice to Proceed’ with construction of what is the largest infrastructure project in this country for hundreds of years. I don’t know what it looks like on the

other side. What I do know is that Solihull as a borough is strong, and has assets that outweigh its liabilities. On balance we can succeed, and projections must be positive. Keep informed, keep positive, be prepared, but most importantly be safe.

Commercial property sector is bearing up well

The commercial property market sector has not ground to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Solihull property expert. Shilpa Unarkat (pictured), senior

associate solicitor at Sydney Mitchell LLP said that while all of those involved in the buying, selling and renting of businesses premises were having to make unexpected decisions, few were pulling out of deals. She said: “I have to say that it’s

very interesting. as well as challenging. Although my busy desk before lockdown is not as busy, most of my clients are coming back with instructions to pause rather than pull out, thankfully. “Some clients have chosen to carry on

undeterred. They had good deals on the table 42 CHAMBERLINK May 2020

before Covid-19 became an issue so nothing has changed for them. Though most firms working remotely has added another layer of complexity to this, we’ve managed to get a fair few transactions over the line. “Those clients that have paused

are all confident that once the current restrictions are lifted, it will be business-as-usual and we can pick up where we left off. “Of course, those buyers

dependent on mortgage funding will be less confident as many lenders have retracted mortgage offers because of the global impact of

this pandemic. It’s hoped that once this is all

over, those Lenders will again be willing to lend – and at reasonable rates, especially given the Bank of England’s recent rate decrease.”

She added that for the rental market, the

outlook was not so positive, with tenants required to carry on paying for their premises even though they might have stopped trading for the time being. “Tenant clients who have been forced to shut

their premises and stop operating their businesses, look to an uncertain future,” she said. “Tenants may be lucky to have the benefit of

business interruption insurance. Some landlords have thankfully offered their tenants a rent holiday for now or simply turned a blind eye while rental isn’t paid in full and/or on the due date. “Ideally this should be documented by way of

a formal rent suspension or rent reduction letter.” She added that a tenant should not simply

stop paying their rent because of coronavirus, as landlords could enforce the terms of the lease to forfeit as a result of non-payment.

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