Stansted Business Forum sceptical about Uttlesford District Council's social media recovery plan for businesses
A business recovery plan has been launched by Uttlesford District Council with the focus on helping companies make the most of social media during the pandemic – but Stansted's business community is unconvinced.
The local authority has partnered with Maybe* Tech to offer 500 businesses access to free advice and support, "inspirational" webinars and weekly training on how to use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to reach more customers and increase sales.
The platform will also give them access to data on how their social media posts are performing.
But business leaders are worried the council has not gone far enough to support struggling firms as first the Tier 2 restrictions in Essex and now the four-week national lockdown take hold.
Stansted Business Forum secretary Peter James described the situation as "crippling", with the hospitality sector "decimated".
"It's a good idea, but how is it actually going to help?" he said. "The hospitality industry uses social media anyway, but what's the point at the moment? They know how to use it, but they're the ones having it hardest at the moment.
"Uttlesford would be better off waiting until we come out of this – that's when businesses are going to need the most help."
Stansted Parish Council chairman Cllr Maureen Caton warned that it was “not looking good” for areas like Lower Street, where businesses are primarily hospitality-focused and are suffering from a shortage of passing trade, with commuter numbers significantly reduced.
UDC said that according to research, independent shops across the UK had reduced their social media use at exactly the time online consumer use had dramatically increased.
Cllr Neil Reeve, the council's portfolio holder for investments and the economy, said: “The pandemic has highlighted the need for businesses to embrace digital technology. It's important our businesses are given all the tools they need to bounce back and thrive.”