- Save Our Local Coworking is a new campaign backed by a growing number of UK coworking owners and suppliers.
- Independent spaces have been devastated by the pandemic but have not received grants or business rates relief.
- The group is mobilising support to secure a future for independent spaces, which need financial help to survive the current health crisis.
Independent coworking spaces hold enormous value for the UK’s army of small businesses, startups and freelancers.
It’s not just a place to sit and work. It’s where entrepreneurs go to connect, collaborate, share knowledge and innovate. And given that UK small businesses generate an annual turnover of £1.5 trillion and employ 13.2 million people (gov.uk), their needs shouldn’t be overlooked.
That’s why it’s essential that the coworking sector is given the financial tools and resources it needs to survive the current health crisis. That includes help to invest in safety measures that will enable these spaces to re-open safely when restrictions are lifted, ready to kick-start the economy.
So why, then, is government support for independent spaces virtually non-existent?
Save Our Local Coworking
Many coworking hubs have not received grants or business rates relief. Yet, just like hospitality and retail, these businesses have been devastated by the COVID-19 lockdown and their income is evaporating.
A survey of European coworking spaces by Social Workplaces, conducted between 13th – 16th March 2020, found that almost half of respondents (47%) had already been ‘very much or dramatically affected’ by the coronavirus. Only 7% hadn’t been impacted at that stage.
Since then, the situation has become more acute as more nations – including the UK – have entered lockdown and the majority of coworking clients have been forced to stay at home.
This has left coworking spaces in a perilous financial position with an uncertain future. So what now?
Enter Save Our Local Coworking.
It’s a new campaign which has been set up to shine a light on the current situation for independent coworking spaces and to lobby government for support.
Behind the campaign are numerous industry groups and individuals, including Bernie Mitchell from the UK Coworking Assembly and the European Coworking Assembly, Third Door Coworking, Maple Works, TMRW, The Hatchery, Space4, Cobot, Nexudus, OfficeRnD, The Melting Pot, Included, Fiona Ross, Town Sq and WeCoffee.
The group is growing, as more people seek to take action and mobilise support to try and secure a future for independent spaces across the UK and Europe.
In support of the campaign, Jean-Yves of Coworking Europe and Social Workplaces, noted that “local and independent coworking spaces are integral to rebuilding economies in a post COVID-19 society, and that’s why this campaign is so important.”
“Lots of coworking spaces aren’t getting business rates relief because they don’t fall into a certain classification,” said Bernie Mitchell. “The rates system is broken. We need to fix how spaces are recognised so we can help coworking spaces get the immediate relief they need.”
To do this, the group is throwing its collective weight behind lobbying efforts to bring vital financial relief to the UK’s independent coworking sector. It stands with Coadec and the Mayor of London’s Workspaces Advisory Group (WAG) to give a louder voice in their approaches to the UK Government and Treasury.
“We’re working together to try and lobby the government but we need to connect with as many UK independent coworking spaces as possible.”
The group is pushing for three main outcomes to enable coworking spaces to survive:
- A 12-month Business Rates Relief and for the Small Business Rates Grant not to be based on the Rateable Value of Business Rates;
- Extension of the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant (RHLG) scheme to community-based open workspaces – allowing local authorities to apply discretion in favour of open community workspaces that they know to provide positive social impact;
- Consider direct applications from applicants they have had no previous contact with. No upper limit should be applied in terms of rateable value.
Want to help? Go to saveourlocalcoworking.co.uk and add your email address to show your support for the campaign.
Support and resources
In addition to the campaign, the UK Coworking Assembly is busy providing day-to-day support for independent owners and operators.
“There is so much going on in Europe and the UK for indie coworking,” added Bernie.
Ordinarily, the UK Coworking Assembly runs in-person and online events, from monthly breakfast meetups to webinars and workshops. Now the group, which is part of the European Coworking Assembly, is offering support to coworking owners in the form of a Crisis Directory.
They are also running weekly, sometimes daily, calls to chat through the latest COVID-19 developments and crowdsource help, knowledge and inspiration for coworking owners.
Head over to coworkingassembly.eu and londoncoworkingassembly.com to find out more and get involved. Connect with Bernie on LinkedIn to follow the latest updates. And most importantly, show your support for local spaces by signing up at saveourlocalcoworking.co.uk.