East Herts Council ready to support battered businesses with £3 million in grants
Businesses in Bishop's Stortford and the rest of East Herts battered by the Covid-19 pandemic can apply for a share of almost £3m being distributed by the district council.
Cllr Geoff Williamson, East Herts Council's deputy leader and executive member for financial sustainability, is set to outline the scheme to fellow members on Tuesday evening (Jan 5).
In a report, he told the cabinet: "The goal is to try and support as many businesses as possible with the money received from the Government while keeping the individual grant amounts high enough that they will provide meaningful support to those businesses."
He said that the council's experience over the past year administering statutory Government support to shops and services forced to close had shown that some traders had missed out, and the new cash was a chance to help them.
EHC will receive £2,994,960 – £20 per head of population – for the discretionary handouts in a programme which will cover the period to March 31, 2022. Cllr Williamson cautioned that no further funding should be expected.
He said: "The Government expect this funding to be primarily used for discretionary grants. They wish to encourage local authorities to help those businesses which whilst not being mandatorily closed are severely impacted. An example might be that they are suppliers to businesses which have been mandatorily closed.
"Local authorities are free to provide support to businesses in the area that are not liable for business rates, and it is suggested that consideration be given to fixed costs, employees, the ability to trade online and the scale of loss they will suffer from this lockdown, or subsequent local restrictions. It is also possible to top up a mandatory grant."
East Herts has already decided to set aside £70,000 for projects led by its economic development team and to ring-fence up to £160,000 for projects led by Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
It has determined to have three tranches for grants, each covering six months: November 2020 to April 2021, May 2021-October 2021 and November 2021-March 2022, with a one-month window for applications at the start of tranches two and three.
For the first, special consideration is being given to those businesses which may have missed out on previous support.
There are eight categories and the amount that can be awarded is determined by the number of employees, fixed costs, the proportion of trade lost in the last two months and ability to trade on the internet or click-and-collect and takeaway.
Those set to benefit include taxi drivers and market traders. They could each receive £500, while up to £15,000 could go to those in the retail, hospitality and leisure industry, events businesses and suppliers or manufacturing.
Charities could get up to £2,000, as could mobile hairdressers and beauticians. The scheme could also support church halls which have missed out on rental income.