With community businesses now in their fourth week of lockdown – and with more weeks ahead – the plans that had to be speedily put together to cope with the new obstacles and challenges are now being well tested. Each day new success stories and new issues come to light – and what stands out above all is the strength and flexibility of the community business model and the volunteer force behind each it.

James Alcock

Supply chain

This is an issue over which we have been pushing government, suppliers and wholesalers for a solution and it is more important than ever that we have up-to-date examples of the challenges that you are facing. We need to bolster our campaigning with clear evidence from our members of individual supply issues. For example, what stock and lines are you struggling to access and what percentage of your entire stock order is actually being delivered? Why is this an issue for your community? Please give us any supporting evidence. Are you aware of any price changes in the stock you are ordering? Have you observed any practices within the supply chain that worry you? Anything that you can send us to illustrate these will be vital in our ongoing campaign.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has launched an inquiry into food supply during the Coronavirus pandemic. The committee is particularly looking at access to healthy food during periods of self-isolation, and how disruptions in the food supply chain should be managed. Plunkett will be submitting evidence to the committee based on what community businesses have told us in recent weeks.

This is a good opportunity for community businesses themselves to feed in their own experiences of the supply chain, and you can do so here.

Here is our draft submission. We would welcome members’ feedback and observations before we submit.

And if your business has encountered any other issues or problems then Plunkett is here to help and would like to hear from you. Get in touch by emailing membership@plunkett.co.uk or call 01993 810730.

Good news

Across the country community businesses including pubs and shops have been increasingly making the headlines through the flexible and innovative services they have been providing. And there have been more stories of inspirational community spirit. Don’t forget, if you have a story do share it with us or with your local media and let people know about your community business.

New membership manager

Plunkett has welcomed a new member of staff, Claire Spendley, as our membership manager. In time Claire will be asking for your views on membership with the aim to improve and update Plunkett’s membership benefits. Claire will be responsible for the development and delivery of Plunkett’s membership strategy, ensuring membership of Plunkett provides the necessary advice and practical support to meet the needs of groups at every stage of their community business journey. Read more about Claire here.

Events

Plunkett is continuing to host online events during the coronavirus lockdown to help community businesses. We have two webinars coming up featuring a wealth of advice and experience on investments and on the Public Works Loan. Sign up now to these free events.

21 April 11:00 – Raising Investment for Community Businesses Webinar

Join us for a webinar where you’ll hear from a panel of experts on how community business can use a mixture of finance including grant, donations, shares and loans to support their plans. You can also learn how Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) can play a role in helping maximise investment.

28 April 14:00 – How to conduct Society business during Covid-19 Webinar

A free webinar on holding Annual Members’ Meetings and submitting your Annual Return. Find out our recommended approach to adapting how you manage your Society in these challenging times while maintaining good governance.

29 April – Public Works Loan Webinar

This free webinar for all community businesses features practical information and examples about the Public Works Loan, a fund available to parish and town councils. The event will explore what the fund is, how to apply and why you might want to with guidance from our partners and advisers.

Weekly chats

We are continuing to host regular Zoom calls as an opportunity for pub and shop groups to ask questions of Plunkett staff and to be updated on the latest relevant developments. Groups can suggest topics for which they would like support or representation and have a chance to exchange ideas and spark debate with others. These are informal forums for conversation and all are welcome to participate. More information can be found here.

Community Business Survey

I would also like to remind you about the short survey  we are conducting to help us understand which government-backed support packages are actually being accessed by community businesses. I encourage you to please complete it is you have not already.

Don’t forget you can get advice and support from our community business team on info@plunkett.co.uk or by calling our helpline 01993 810730.

James Alcock

Chief Executive, Plunkett Foundation