EOW Reflections 29/09/2023

This morning this headline told a brutal story: Buckingham Group supply chain hit for over £108m.

The headline is that all important hook and it worked, and there directly under the bold print was the real story : 1,200 firms left in the lurch. But I never really got to the nub of what that really means.

As firms fail on construction sites and high streets, in office blocks and rural communities across the UK, the headlines are ‘Big business goes bust’ but what about the firms that work with those bigger companies and the people who work for those firms? 1,200 firms left in the lurch helps understanding, but I was left wanting much more. What will the impact be on those 1,200 firms? What does being ‘left in the lurch’ mean? How many of them will fail as a result of losing contracts? And what will that mean for how many employees, in local communities, families, charities etc in the areas those smaller firms previously flourished and contributed financially, economically and socially? I’m really asking what will the human impact be?

We don’t often get the whole picture painted for us. Even when the headline hooks us in, we often only read as far as para 3. If the human story makes the cut at all, it’s often so far down the page we miss it.

Another headline this morning reads: Business leaders spell out exactly how axing HS2 rail to Manchester would hit city region’s economy.

I’m not qualified to comment on whether or not HS2 should go ahead or not. What I’m asking is what will the human impact be and how far will the ripples spread? We started to get a glimpse of that further down the article. Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce has looked at the big picture and reports that contracts have been awarded to more than 3,000 businesses across the UK and half of those contracts were awarded to small or medium sized firms. I want to know, if the Manchester leg doesn’t get build what does that mean in human terms?

Small firms in the UK employ up to 50 people. In a local area just one of those losing a key contract can lead to insolvency with 50 people made unemployed and 50 families unable to pay the bills. We’re worried about skills shortages and so on the face of it, it would seem that people losing jobs might find another quickly, but the missing skills are rarely the same ones possessed by the people about to be redundant. Even if someone does get another role quickly there’s the gap in which debt racks up and wellbeing plummets, with all the knock-on effects on mental health and family relationships. This is human and really matters.

Perhaps it’s time to turn things upside down. Perhaps the headline should read: xxxx people face job loss. If we put the people first and concentrate on the human impact, might we get better business practices, more people centric policies, a more caring society? Surely putting people first is worth a try.