Personal message from the Alderman of the Ward of Cheap

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Recent weeks, and in particular the events of last week, have understandably caused high levels of anxiety. Firstly, for the health and wellbeing of our friends and loved ones, and also because of the impact coronavirus is having on businesses and jobs in the City and across the UK.

Naturally, we all have questions, and having worked with my colleagues to try to find some tangible answers for everyone within the Ward of Cheap, I wanted to draw attention to what is being done, where you can find support and the possible pathways ahead.

I feel it’s important to emphasise, that while there are undoubtedly difficult times ahead, we have all been through difficult times before and we have many reasons to be quietly confident in our collective abilities to pull through. This I believe wholeheartedly, and will be doing everything within my power to facilitate.

We have good reason to look to the future

In a joint statement by the Lord Mayor and Policy Chair last week, William Russell and Catherine McGuinness offered reassurance to all living and working in The City, saying:

“We will be supporting the City, to help employees, businesses and the financial system. We will be sustaining our work on long-term competitiveness, for example by continuing our climate action work. And we will be speeding the recovery so we are ready, whenever the moment comes, to relaunch a full and strong economy.”

Together, they reminded us of the strengths that are the foundations of The City’s proudest strengths and achievements. Foundations that we often forget the real value of in times of affluence, but which really do offer a supportive base on which we are able to hold fast when things get tough. They said: “London will always be one of the world’s leading financial centres, a city of global talent with a highly-skilled workforce and more international HQs than any other European city.”

It is for those reasons we can be optimistic amidst the caution and careful thought about how we manage the current situation and work towards recovery in the not too distant future.

There is support available and to come for businesses and organisations of all sizes

Understandably, many have contacted both myself and colleagues at Guildhall, looking for answers and a sense of direction. Of course, information and advice is being updated regularly, in line with the situation and Government responses. However, you may be reassured that action is most certainly being taken to keep business in The City running, albeit remotely, and that the challenges of organisations of all sizes, and the people within them, are being taken into careful consideration.

It is in our collective interest for us all to be cared for. In an environment used to high levels of competition, this is certainly a situation where care for all is paramount. For example, in terms of support for hard-hit industries throughout the City of London and the UK, particularly SMEs, the Chamberlain’s Department and The City Bridge Trust are looking into this.

Additionally, The City Bridge Trust is looking into what support may be provided for charities and third sector organisations with the help of Philanthropy Director, Fiona Rawes. They have already pledged an initial £1,000,000, as advised by Alderman Gowman (Vice-Chair of CBT) on Tuesday last week.

There are also measures in place to look into setting up a virtual engagement programme focused on key markets and sectors in London. This was already underway anyway in light of Brexit, and now has even more reason to be expedited. Where visits overseas were planned, communications will continue, but in a virtual capacity instead.

Staying connected as more information comes to light

Naturally, there will be more information to come imminently, but the main message is clear. Business will continue, both short and long term. There is and will be support available, and if you have questions, I myself am available to constituents in the Ward of Cheap, and my colleagues at Guildhall are also available to support and advise wherever possible.

In addition the local church ministers, Rev David Parrott at St Lawrence Jewry and Rev Paul Kennedy at St. Vedast, are both available to talk and pray with members of the community. Rev Paul reminds us that:

“in Sunday’s Gospel reading Jesus spits on the earth, makes paste and rubs it in the eyes of a blind man, this restoring his sight. No social distancing and not a sanitiser in sight. We are social animals: touch, embrace, shared wine, the Mothers’ Day meal form our natural rhythm. The journey of faith transfers the centre of attention away from ourselves to the Other; whether that Other is neighbour, rough sleeper or God. This virus changes everything as we isolate. Like many in business, I wrote letters telling people not to come into work afraid for the hopes, dreams and rents of these young Londoners. We’re aware of illness and human frailty but “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord”. At St. Vedast we offer mass most days and are asked to pray for the ill, the fearful, NHS staff, students missing exams.

Panic buying hits the news but my experience has been of kindness and compassion. The friendly enquiry about how I really feel. Mothering Sunday traditionally starts with the word, “rejoice” and the encouragement “be joyful all who were mourning”. This will come.”

If you would like to contact me or the Common Councillors, please do so and we will endeavour to answer questions wherever we can.

Wishing you good health.

Robert Hughes-Penney