Chamber News

Chambers Ireland today (23 Feb 2021) says three month extension not long enough and calls on Government to leave incremental half-measures in the past, and start afresh with an expansive, data-driven plan to support business through the impact of COVID-19.

Speaking this evening, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “The extension of existing financial supports is good news, as it reduces some of the uncertainty for businesses. Yet, right across our Network, there is the very real concern that Government is still failing to engage with the reality of the situation facing our local economies.

“Wage supports, commercial rates waivers and debt warehousing will be needed for most of 2021. While the announcements this evening are welcome, the business community fears we will be back in this position again in a few short months, seeking clarity on further extensions. The need to rebuild business confidence is now critical.

“Since the start of the year, Chambers Ireland has warned that existing financial supports do not go far enough - too many businesses are left out. For many that are eligible, the existing rates of support do not go far enough, given the scale of economic shock facing the most vulnerable sectors and the length of time they have been impacted.

“Debts for many businesses are mounting, and the supports available are rarely enough to offset them. When a reopening finally occurs, many businesses will see their lockdown debts threaten their long-term viability.

“None of our members want to risk a Fourth Wave, combined with another lockdown. Chambers Ireland urges for a measured, conservative, data-driven approach to re-opening the economy which includes realistic supports for, and better communication with, restricted businesses.

“Reducing, if not eradicating, community transmission will be essential for businesses to re-open safely. Ensuring the reopening is sustainable is another key challenge. Robust public-health measures must be in place to prevent the introduction of new strains of the virus. Without them we will undermine our progress in reducing transmission, which has come at such great sacrifice to so many, while also running the risk of undermining our own vaccine programme.

“There is growing frustration throughout the business community regarding the COVID-19 communications and guidance. Trust is easily lost, and hard earned. Many business owners are losing their faith in the adequacy of the Government response, and if this happens, we are very concerned that it will erode adherence to the public health protocols.

“We are now 12 months on from the first case of COVID-19 in Ireland. Chambers Ireland hopes the new Government strategy will be a fresh start, and an opportunity for us to use the lessons of the past year to suppress the virus while supporting local economies.”

The Port of Waterford building in George’s Street, home to Waterford Chamber, is going green for St Patrick’s Day and we are asking our members to follow suit.

Get in touch if you would like green filters for your exterior lights or join in the fun by dressing your window. You can also get involved at home.

Waterford is to be the host to Ireland’s largest virtual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Over the coming weeks we are asking the community of Waterford to plan a parade at home or in your garden, all within the current restrictions. Dress up and parade around your garden, your street, your green and record a short video to upload to a dedicated Facebook group page. Waterford needs you, the Community, to play your part in bringing to life our annual Parade, with all your heart and soul.

Watch out across Waterford City and County as our landmark buildings go green in the lead up to St. Patrick’s Day. The Waterford City parade route will be flooded in green lighting on and before St. Patrick’s Day, as will many of our iconic buildings across Waterford County.

Fáilte Ireland are engaging with RTE in the hope of attracting more coverage for these events when it all kicks off in mid March.

The online Story Map will capture the event in totality and give us a unique piece of digital social history with multiple promotional elements within. Highlights will include Thomas Francis Meagher Bypass Bridge, Kilmacthomas Viaduct, Metal Man Tramore, Reginald’s Tower and much more.

More details on this exciting project will be available on www.waterfordcouncil.ie and the Waterford St Patrick's Day FB page.

Chambers Ireland today (22 Feb 2021) calls on Government to put climate action, urban renewal, and gender equality at the heart of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and National Development Plan.

Speaking this afternoon, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “The key messages coming from our Network are that Government action must be accelerated and more ambitious.

“The Irish economy has faced incredible challenges over the past 12 months, the demands that the Brexit process and the Covid-19 crisis have put the political and administrative resources of the state under enormous pressure.

“Further, because of the economic constraints of the necessary public health response to the pandemic, and the compounding impact of Brexit, we are far from where we need to be if we are to meet the demands that the coming decades will place upon our capital infrastructure, our society, and our environment.

“However, it is our view that there is an opportunity for Government to refresh its approach to delivering for the long term needs of the economy. With the current availability of low-interest finance, we should be redoubling our investment in energy infrastructure and strategic transport.

“Moreover, as we consider how we can best support the wider economic recovery, the promised National Economic Plan should focus on upskilling our workforce, especially when it comes to digital skills, and supporting gender equality through investment in childcare.”

With respect to the proposed “Town Centre First” strategy, Chambers Ireland Head of Research Shane Conneely calls for a radical, joined-up approach to how we deliver for urban centres.

“Urban Living must be central to the National Development Plan. If we are to meet our 2030 climate targets, living in urban areas must become something that people aspire to. Our cities and towns need to become welcoming and attractive places to live.

“More, and better, urban living not only supports the objectives of the National Planning Framework, but building sustainable cities and communities helps people develop lifestyles which are more active and so are less carbon intensive.

“We know that cities and towns where people live are healthier business environments, but with the right investments they also support better quality of life too. People friendly streets are business friendly streets because the opportunities are where the customers are.

“There are broader effects too. Upgrading and reusing vacant premises will help us address social policy problems like the housing crisis, and will do so in ways that will consume less of our carbon budget.

“Meanwhile improving the physical stock of our cities and towns offers us an opportunity to efficiently retrofit those buildings which will not only reduce the cost of living for urban populations, but it will also have a disproportionately positive effect on reducing fuel poverty too.”

WBA 2020 Shortlist

Take a lunch break with a difference on Friday, 26th February by tuning in to the Waterford Business Awards live on the Waterford Chamber Facebook page and on wlrfm.com from 12.30pm.

Organisers Waterford Chamber have joined forces again with partners Dungarvan & West Waterford Chamber and WLR for the gala awards ceremony which for the first time ever, in light of Covid-19, will take place virtually via live stream and will be hosted by Damien Tiernan and Mary O’Neill.

Tune in to see how the shortlisted businesses have excelled over the past year and to find out who will be named Overall Waterford Business of the Year, with thanks to Waterford City & County Council, who have shown tremendous support since the awards began.

Waterford’s Entrepreneur of the Year, sponsored by Faithlegg, will also be revealed, along with the winners of each of the ten categories.
Speaking about the awards, Danette Connolly, President, Waterford Chamber said: “Like everyone else we have had to adapt and diversify and we are excited to bring a digital awards to a large audience. We are working with the best with Frontline and WLR to deliver this online offering and I hope people will tune in on our Facebook page and to wlr.com on February 26th. We all need some positivity and good news right now, so we are quite literally handing it to you on a lunch plate!

“Yes there will be people left disappointed on the day but we must remember, these are businesses who have shown strength and determination during the worst of times. Whether they win their category or not, they are being acknowledged for that and must be congratulated. The judges had a very tough job this year, but we thank them for their professionalism and dedication under the stewardship of Noel Kelly.”

All will be revealed on Friday, February 26th from 12.30pm and you can tune in to WLR’s The Hot Desk on March 3rd for the highlights. There will also be extensive social media coverage across Waterford Chamber and WLR’s social media platforms, so get involved using #WBA20.

The Waterford Business Awards shortlist includes the following businesses.

Customer Service Excellence
Alfie Hale Sports
Fresh Food Courtyard
Relatecare

Food & Beverage
Bodega Restaurant
Everett’s Restaurant
Glorious Sushi

Excellence in E-commerce
Altitude
The Book Resort
Murphy Larkin Timber Products

Green Excellence
Adesco
Encon
Enerpower

Marketing Excellence
Liberty Blue Estate Agents
The TEFL institute of Ireland
Visit Waterford

Micro Business of the year
Inn the Doghouse
Love Tramore
Nathan Burke Photography and design

New Business of the Year
Blue Butterfly Coffee
company & Trade
Cove Stores
Iasc Seafood Bar

SME of the Year
Powerflow Electronics
Q1 Scientific
William Scanlon Dairy Tech

Technology and Innovation
Flexiwage
Nearform
REd Hat

Tourism Activity/Attraction of the Year
Dunmore Adventure
The Haven Hotel
Waterford & Suir Valley Railway

Chambers Ireland today (9th Feb 2021) welcomes announcement by Government that COVID business grants will be expanded.

Speaking this afternoon Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “We have raised a number of concerns with Government as to the very narrow qualifying criteria for CRSS, which excluded far too many businesses- particularly those who were in the immediate supply chain and have seen much of their business wiped out to closures of hospitality and retail business.

"The proposed new COVID Business Aid Scheme (CBAS), which targets wholesalers, caterers, suppliers, and events companies, is therefore welcome.

"However, we await more information on when applications will open, how the new scheme will be distributed, and what the rates of payment will be. Too many of the supports that have been made available to date have had over-complicated qualifying structures which has led to suboptimal uptake, often because firms remain concerned about post-hoc clawbacks of such supports.

"Faced with the short run shock of the pandemic, these forms of temporary discretionary spending are essential and prudent levers for government to use. It is vital that the short-term effects of the recession do not transform into long term scarring because of a lack of government support for the domestic economy.

"Our Network will be closely reviewing the details of the CBAS scheme to gauge feedback from the targeted businesses, and to understand the issues for businesses that remain outside both the CRSS and the CBAS.

"Chambers Ireland re-iterates the need for urgent clarity on extensions to the EWSS, the VAT reduction, and debt-warehousing. This information is urgently needed if businesses are to be able to make sound financial decisions over the coming months.

"Regarding the Commercial Rates Waiver, currently extended to the end of March, we are again concerned that the qualifying criteria for the waiver is much too narrow, and again like CRSS, risks excluding far too many vulnerable businesses. This risks transferring the financial difficulties of vulnerable businesses onto the balance sheets of local government.

"We cannot afford to under-react to the challenge facing us. The coming months will be extremely challenging and local economies must be supported.”

Waterford Chamber is calling on the Government to reassess and refresh the Covid supports for business over the coming months.

According to Gerald Hurley, CEO Waterford Chamber, “It is now almost a year since the pandemic hit and the time has come for Government to assess the suitability and effectiveness of the existing supports. At this time, there needs to be a roadmap or exit strategy for when the time comes to remove the supports. We need to be cognisant of the fact that a lot of businesses are only operating right now because of these supports. What happens when they stop? We cannot afford to see mass job losses and businesses closing all over Waterford.

“In addition, what about those who don’t qualify for support? Can they sustain another six months of this? Government needs to look at the parameters around the qualification for these schemes. Too few businesses are currently qualifying and their future now hangs in the balance.

“For example, the CRSS is limited to businesses that are public facing. This excludes many businesses that have been directed to shut in the latest wave of restrictions. Therefore, non-essential retailers may receive assistance because of the closures meanwhile their suppliers do not. We need new payment subsidies for all businesses who have been forced to shut.

“Budget 2021 has a Contingency Fund – surely this is exactly what it is to be used for? Nobody could foresee this pandemic lasting this long and it will continue until the roll out of the vaccine is complete.

“If Government doesn’t act now, their lack of action will result in a wave of insolvencies and job losses that our local economy simply cannot afford. Now is the time to great a robust recovery plan, support local economies and let is come out of this pandemic in a strong position. The alternative is unthinkable.”

Chambers Ireland today (21 January 2020) calls on Government to substantially rethink and refresh the range of COVID-19 supports available to businesses over the coming months.

Speaking this morning, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot called Government to urgently examine the suitability and effectiveness of existing supports, with a view to both their expansion and a clear transition process for their gradual removal to allow time for businesses to recover in the period immediately after restrictions are eased.

“Our network of Chambers is hearing that the criteria for accessing schemes are far too narrow. Wage supports and grant payments are helping qualifying businesses, but too few businesses qualify.

“As an example, the CRSS is limited to businesses that are public facing. This excludes many businesses that have been directed to shut in the latest wave of restrictions; non-essential retailers may receive assistance because of the closures meanwhile their suppliers do not.

“Chambers Ireland raised such problems with the Department of Finance while the Finance Bill was being drafted in the autumn, during what were then localised lockdowns.

“The current, even more stringent, restrictions mean that far more businesses have been shuttered. It is now even more important that support schemes are expanded so that they are effective. If CRSS itself cannot be revised immediately, then new payments that support business that have been forced to close are needed.

“Government is in a well-placed position to expand supports – this is what the Contingency Fund in Budget 2021 is for – meanwhile the tax receipts have been healthier than expected and the government continues to be able to access finance at low interest rates.

“The prudent action for Government is to support the business community through this crisis with supports ambitious enough to meet the challenges that the economy faces, supports that are administratively simple and easy to access.

“Without this intervention, the growing debt burden experienced by businesses will likely trigger a wave of insolvencies and job losses that will permanent scar local economies throughout the country. Such a crisis risks hobbling the national economy just as we need it to rebound.

“Infection rates and, sadly, death rates, are still far too high, but with mass vaccination underway, an end to this crisis is in sight. Later in the year, the sectors that have been most affected by public health closures will have an opportunity to bounce back, Government needs to ensure that they will survive to take that opportunity.

“A realistic plan for reopening is needed if businesses are to be able to make sound financial decisions over the coming months. There cannot be a cliff edge for supports that suddenly cease. Wage supports must be tapered off over a reasonable period of time, re-opening grants must be made available, and existing supports such a debt-warehousing and VAT reductions must continue.

“We cannot afford to under-react to the challenge facing us. The coming months will be extremely challenging and local economies must be supported.”

Expert Group Remote Working Report 2020Waterford Chamber has welcomed the publication by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar of the National Remote Working Strategy “Making Remote Work” which commits to an acceleration of the National Broadband Plan, investment in remote hubs, reviewing tax treatment and introducing legislative changes on rights to request remote working.

Writing to the Tanaiste after the announcement, Waterford Chamber CEO Gerald Hurley said: “In light of Covid-19, a lot of us have become accustomed to working remotely and Government is right to acknowledge that this is the future of business.

“We now need to ensure this is funded correctly and that the Right to Request and Right to Disconnect supports flexibility, for both employers and employees, and are SME-friendly in their design.

“What is extremely important about today’s announcement is the examination of the National Broadband Plan. This is critical to the advancement of Waterford in terms of creating a circular link so underdeveloped areas of the city can be zoned for commercial purposes.

“Remote working paired with a National Hubs Strategy, could play a transformative role in reviving our towns, villages, and urban centre.”

Expert Group Remote Working Report 2020Chambers Ireland today (15th January 2021) welcomes the publication by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar of the National Remote Working Strategy “Making Remote Work”. The report commits to an acceleration of the National Broadband Plan, investment in remote hubs, reviewing tax treatment and introducing legislative changes on rights to request remote working.

Speaking this morning, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “The Strategy is an ambitious vision for the future of work in Ireland and the potential to transform the workplace into one that supports quality of life, inclusion and regional development. We welcome the alignment of the Strategy to other key government policies such as the National Economic Plan, the Climate Action Plan, the Town Centre Living initiative, and the forthcoming Sustainable Mobility Policy.

“Over the past few years, Chambers Ireland and our members have championed the benefits of flexible and remote working, and we commend Government on their commitment to ongoing consultation as the Strategy was developed, including their reference to authoritative research recently published by the Western Development Commission and the Whitaker Institute on Remote Work.

“Of particular importance to our members is the commitment within the report to examine the acceleration the National Broadband Plan and develop a National Hubs Network. The experience of the pandemic means that it is more important than ever that we ensure rapid delivery of high-speed broadband throughout the country.

“Remote working paired with a National Hubs Strategy, could play a transformative role in reviving our towns, villages, and urban centres. We particularly welcome the commitment to align hubs with childcare provision and access to public transport.”

Also speaking this morning, Chambers Ireland Director of Policy and Communications Emma Kerins noted the need for investment in skills and training.

“Through consultation and engagement with our members we know that many companies have been looking to leverage the benefits of flexible and remote working, even long before the onset of COVID-19. While we look forward to engaging with the Department on future consultation regarding a Right to Request and Right to Disconnect, we must ensure that such rights support flexibility, for both employers and employees, and are SME-friendly in their design. Government must ensure that a “right to request” is developed in a way that is cognisant of growing data that shows most employees would prefer hybrid, or blended forms of remote working.

“Most importantly, if remote working is to evolve in a way that supports competitiveness, productivity, and job creation, it must be complimented by an ambitious skills development strategy for managers and leaders, particularly in SMEs. We note commitments to expand training and skills development and we urge the Government to make urgent progress, particularly if we are to capitalise on the experience of remote working during the pandemic.

“Finally, remote working, as an element of wider flexible working, presents significant opportunities in creating a more equal workforce by boosting labour participation and making the place of work more inclusive. However, there is growing evidence, nationally and internationally, that the negative impacts of the pandemic on the workforce have been felt more strongly on women than on men, with women carrying more of the load when it comes to childcare, homes duties and home-schooling. Through feedback from members, there are concerns that the experience of remote working during the pandemic may harm career progression for women and potentially widen the gender pay gap. While these concerns are acknowledged within the report, as the strategy evolves, we call on the Department to closely monitor the impact of remote working on gender equality in the workplace.

“The consequences of COVID-19 for the health and economic well-being of Irish society cannot be understated. It is likely that we will be living with the destructive impacts of the pandemic for some time to come. However, with vaccinations in sight, it is important to look to the future and the legacy of our experience with the pandemic. The Department’s Remote Work Strategy is an ambitious set of targets that could have a transformative impact on labour participation, quality of life and regional employment. We look forward to working with Government over the coming months as it is implemented.”

Tommie RyanWaterford Chamber is delighted to announce the appointment of Tommie Ryan as Waterford Chamber Skillnet Network Manager.

Speaking on Tommie’s appointment, Waterford Chamber CEO Gerald Hurley said: “Tommie brings a wealth of experience to this role, particularly in terms of his engagement with the business community as Festival Manager for Winterval and Harvest among others.

“Tommie will be a very strong addition to the team and we look forward to working with him to expand the Network and continue to provide training and skills development for our business community.”

On his appointment, Tommie said: “I’m absolutely delighted to take on the position of Waterford Chamber Skillnet Manager, and I can’t wait to start working with the Chamber team and engaging with Chamber members to identify their training and skills needs. Being in a position to support businesses, employees, entrepreneurs and job seekers through training and development is both exhilarating and extremely rewarding, particularly in these difficult times.

“Waterford is a city of opportunity and we will be working with companies to ensure their needs are met in terms of developing our workforce and furthering the agenda of Waterford as the Capital of the South East and a great place to live, work, invest in and do business.”

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