March 30, 2020 @ 17:15 by Richard Dawson
A dedicated call centre providing advice for Tees Valley businesses during the coronavirus pandemic will now run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Tees Valley Business Support Line was established last week by the Tees Valley Combined Authority and mayor Ben Houchen, working alongside Stockton-based call handing provider Lemon Business Solutions.
The service aims to provide support and guidance for businesses that are suffering economically due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, providing specific advice and directing callers to the relevant third-party organisations and resources where necessary.
Since launching just over a week ago, more than 1,000 businesses have contacted the service seeking advice and support.
Now, owing to the overwhelming response, organisers have announced that the call centre will run around the clock, greatly extending the hours of the original service, which initially ran from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday.
Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen commented: “When we set this helpline up just a week ago in response to the coronavirus pandemic we didn’t know what to expect. We went from a standing start to taking calls in just 36 hours — something that normally takes weeks to achieve.
“We did this because we knew companies both large and small would be crying out for guidance, direction and assistance and the response we’ve had has been overwhelming.
“Government has issued a huge amount of clarity on its support packages in the past seven days, and now we’ve got people manning the phones at all times to make sure businesses get quick, helpful advice as easily as possible, to keep them afloat.
“On top of this, we continue to work tirelessly with our Local Authorities and organisations, such as the Local Resilience Forums, for a coordinated effort to make sure everyone is getting the assistance they need as this unprecedented situation continues.”
The extension of the scheme came as mayor Houchen called for a unified response across the region.
In particular, the mayor urged public bodies to review their payment processes to ensure that bills were paid on time to support local firms and prevent cash flow problems.
Tees Valley Combined Authority and South Tees Development Corporation have already changed their operations to shorten their payment terms, and also began working closely with their partner agency to ensure their suppliers in the private sector are paid promptly.
Mayor Houchen added: “Make no mistake, our small and medium-sized companies are feeling the strain first, and there is only so much advice and support we, or the Government, can give.
“In the spirit of pulling together, I’d ask the public sector to lead from the front in ensuring immediate payment for our valuable firms.
“I’d also ask our companies, some of whom will also be feeling the pinch, to see if they can streamline what they do to support their supply chains and fellow businesses.”
Businesses, employers, and self-employed workers can contact The Tees Valley Business Support Line Service by calling 01642 662 777 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.