There are some unexpected results of the credit crunch locally. I heard a while ago that there has been an increase in sales of quality convenience foods, attributed to those who wish to treat themselves but are being careful about further extravagance; this is good news for the local fish and food processing industries. And I heard yesterday that there is a rise in the number of local people seeking advice and support about starting their own business, including some who are armed with redundancy money.
Quite a number of these are in a vulnerable situation fearing that if any initiative they take upsets their established benefits payments it might take them a good while to reestablish their entitlements if things go wrong. E-factor, which is the social enterprise which is the chief agency to promote and support enterprise locally, has an imaginative arrangement with Job Centre Plus to tackle this. For an initial period, e-factor supported benefits recipients can trade without losing their benefits payments provided they do not keep any profits. If things go well, they can stop benefits and receive profits instead. If things go wrong, they can continue on benefits and cease trading. It seems a simple but unexpectedly imaginative solution.
Some of the Governors at the Grimsby Institute, which owns a half share in e-factor, were being briefed about it as a meeting yesterday, which is where I learnt about the benefits arrangement. Advice, incubation space, loans, and on going support are all part of the provision, and it has a track record of making an impact on hundreds of lives so far and plans to engage more in schools. It quite cheered me up on a day when the public headlines about the local economy were all about the way the disputes at the Humber bank oil refineries have turned even nastier.
I took the picture out of the board room window at the end of the meeting.