Potential UK Govt support for coworking hubs- how you can help

Hey everyone

I’m an operator of two small spaces in the UK. As those of you here know, the govt here is giving support to smaller ‘retail, leisure and hospitality’ businesses in the form of a grant (either £25,000 or £10,000 based on the size of your premises), plus no business rates for a year.

It’s clear that they don’t understand coworking spaces- clearly I say this as an operator myself, but as far as I can see we are pretty much the only businesses that have been forgetten. We (me at least) operate on B1 use classes/licenses (offices and premises), but we operate a new model which is part office and part ‘retail, leisure and hospitality’.

Coworking is a huge part of the economy now, and I think we all agree that our indsustry is going to BOOM once all this is over- yes people are going to work from home more, but this means MORE coworking not less, as more people discover that coworking is as much about the ‘co’ as the ‘working’. 90% of our members also work from home, and the combination of the two is what make it all work.

I raised a concern with our regional authority (WECA is ours) and they passed my concerns onto central govt, who are actively looking at gaps in their emergency help. WECA have some back saying that they have been asked for more details about this and our industry and how it’s going to be affected.

Please- now is the time to step up and mail your local or regional authority, or your favourite business organisation- business link, chamber of commerce, whoever. We can amplify this message and get the govt to do the right thing- and if this saves even some of us from going under then it will have been worth it.

Take care and stay safe everyone

Tom X

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Thanks for sharing Tom.

I’ve pinged some of our UK network and friends and will see if we can get this circulated via our social/internal channels.

Can you share a draft of the letter/email/phone script you used so that we can make it as easy as possible for understandably stressed out operators to get involved?

Note that I run two spaces- The Guild which is well established but too big for rate relief and The Drawing Rooms, which I’ve created as a ‘post coworking’ space- I guess it’s more like a private member’s club than a workspace. Many people have joined both.

It’s the Drawing Rooms I’m more interested in- it’s a private landlord vs the local council for The Guild, and it’s my own business vs the not for profit which owns The Guild (though my business operates that one too). I think The Guild will be OK as I get the impression the council as landlord will let us stop paying rent there for a bit now we’ve closed it up. As a very rare 3500 sq ft and ground floor space in the cente of Bath I’ve also offered The Guild space to the council if at any point they need it for emergency/operational reasons

I had an email from our local growth hub

“We’re currently working with Local Authorities regarding the government backed support measures announced, and waiting for further detail from central government on eligibility and the finer details. It would also be useful to get your thoughts and queries which I can look in to where not yet clear”

I replied

“There’s a specific issue around small coworking spaces- we’re on b1 use class, so we’re not classed as “hospitality, leisure or retail” so we don’t get ANY of this help. However we clearly do these things as well, and we are so vulnerable as members are on monthly membership plans so our income dries up as much as a shop etc”

I have two coworking spaces and neither is going to get rates relief/grants/anything…

Her reply

Completely understand the difficulties you’re facing at the moment, especially where there is uncertainty surrounding eligibility of the support measures announced. I know that we are looking into support for co-working spaces generally so will come back when I have further information.

And then

You have likely been in discussions with BANES Council, however central government have come back to us asking whether you are eligible for Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR)?

We’re gathering information from co-working spaces so hopefully we will be able to share something with you shortly.

And the pertinent bit of my reply

[We are] just over the small business rate relief limit

It’s designed as the next step from coworking - a professional membership-based club space where people work, meet and network. We help people do business. We help them connect with each other. We help them grow by networking. We run events in the evening and weekends. We have/had a small but growing room hire income- with local industry wanting to meet their team and clients somewhere quirky and interesting - Altran Engineering, SRA Architects, Gradwell comms, Lovehoney - all big Bath names.

It is on a B1 use class, as many/most coworking spaces are

People are obviously not buying memberships right now and won’t until all this is sorted. We will soon not be able to pay rent or rates (though I’ve paid my rent for this quarter today)

If I was on a relevant use class that the govt see as ‘hospitality, leisure or retail’ then I would get £25,000 grant and no rates for a year, which would protect the business and the staff and see us through.

My suggestion would be that a discretionary fund is set up for each local authority for outliers to apply the help outside the strict categories on a case by case basis.

Coworking is getting bigger and bigger every year, and I strongly believe that we are a sector that will BOOM once this is all over- yes people will work from home more but they will need the human interaction and stimulation and physical networking more than ever- and that’s exactly what coworking is about. We’ll be a small by powerful driver of economic success- arguably just as much as a pub or a cafe.

I hope that helps. We really do seem to have fallen between the cracks here

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Yes well said!
I have said the same myself, that I think this unfortunate situation is helping us in a way show people what we have been talking about as far as ‘Working in Isolation’, the ‘Co’ in yes ‘Working’ and Co = Collaboration, Community and CoWork

Very well said, Tom! Thank you for advocating for our industry. :heart: