WHILE many other businesses were forced to suspend activity, one Tynedale accountancy firm remained open to provide person-centred taxation advice and support to clients across the county.

The Hexham Courant launched a campaign in April with the aim of celebrating businesses going above and beyond in the community, identifying their special efforts by crowing them Trader of the Week.

And this week, Patricia J Arnold & Co Ltd, a Hexham-based firm founded in 1985, take the crown.

“We have kept the office going, albeit behind a closed door since the beginning of the pandemic, based on the feeling that actually closing the office and doing nothing was not helping to keep livelihoods going”, said Patricia, who works alongside a 20-strong team.

She added: “We restricted those in the office to people who could walk or take very small trips and observed very strict social distancing, with staff in different offices on different floors of the building.

“Since the suggestion we could get people back to work, we undertook a safety assessment and now have a Covid secure workplace.

"We also now have the majority of staff back in the building, with the exception of those who have to travel from a very different area, those who have caring responsibilities or health conditions that require greater protection.”

However, Patricia explained that the challenges of home working, technology limitations and ever-changing government advice, had been a significant undertaking for the team.

She said: “The biggest challenge with this has been that, as a trusted advisor on all things financial, we have to spend an enormous amount of time getting to up speed on all the government grants and schemes that are in place. That is not to say that these haven’t been very welcome and many of our clients have been able to continue their businesses as a result of the very generous schemes in place and the speed with which the Government made them work, however it has massively increased our workload on work that generally, under the circumstances, one does not feel is chargeable.

“The technology we put in place has undoubtedly been a help, but it has its limitations as I think everyone is experiencing.

"We also deal with quite a lot of elderly clients and this has been a particular challenge for people in that age group, who have wanted help for the first time.”

The hard work of advisors, however, had not gone unnoticed, with the company’s ‘Thought of the Day’ initiative being praised by clients for its helpful updates and summaries.

Patricia added: “For me personally, Covid-19 has been the third of my annus horribilis to quote the Queen. In 2018, my father died, in 2019, I had cancer and in 2020, I am dealing with Covid-19. I am not quite sure how I am still sane and still battling on - it must be determination or optimism for the triumph of hope over experience.”

Nominate your trader of the week here.