The North East’s largest council is poised to invest £5 million to help businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Durham County Council looks set to roll out a grant scheme which would provide up to £40,000 in financial assistance to companies, to help them implement recovery plans to overcome the impacts of the virus.
The Durham Business Recovery Grant Scheme would support more than 880 firms and have the potential to safeguard over 1,760 jobs, across the county.
The scheme goes before the council’s Cabinet for approval next week.
Cllr Carl Marshall, the authority’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We fully recognise that coronavirus and the restrictions that have come with it have been devastating for businesses, many of which have faced long periods of time closed with little or no income, or faced increased costs of adapting workplaces and methods of operation.
“We have tried to do everything we can to support companies across County Durham, by processing tens of millions of pounds in various grants since the pandemic began as quickly as we have been able to and we will continue to do so with the latest lockdown grants for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors announced by the Chancellor.
“We are now delighted, subject to Cabinet approval, to be in a position to roll out our own Business Recovery Grants which will make a real difference for more than 880 businesses in all sectors by enabling them to progress their recovery plans and potentially safeguard in excess of 1,760 jobs.
“This is a truly significant investment in what represents one of our long term priorities: supporting businesses and developing a thriving economy. By helping firms, we are ensuring our economy is resilient and in the best possible shape to in time recover from the impact of the pandemic.”
A report to the meeting on Wednesday 13 January sets out how £3 million would come from the council’s own General Fund resources, with £2 million being made available from the authority’s allocation from the government’s Additional Restrictions Support Grant.
The grant scheme would be open to companies across County Durham, in all sectors and varying in size from micro-businesses to those employing up to 250 people in the county.
It would aim to provide financial support for the implementation of business recovery plans; helping firms that have a credible plan to adapt and recover but require additional financial support to be able to implement it.
The scheme would offer grants from £1,000 up to a maximum of £40,000 and would contribute 75 per cent towards the recovery plan costs, with the business expected to meet a quarter of the project cost.
It is estimated that the £5 million budget would allow at least 880 businesses to be supported.
Cabinet is also being asked to note support already being offered to micro businesses (those employing less than 10 people) in the county through the Durham Business Opportunities Programme.
Launched in October, this involves businesses being given one-to-one marketing support to help them increase their sales post-COVID and grants of up to £500 to help implement advice received.
The programme aims to support 110 businesses, with a grant pot of £55,000 which is being met from the reserve of Business Durham, the council’s economic development arm.
Cabinet is also being asked to note that a review is being carried out of funding available to support business start-up in the county. Members will be told that subject to the outcome, council may need to consider additional funding support for start-ups in the form of a grant or voucher scheme. A further report will be brought to Cabinet once the review has been completed.
Cabinet will also be told of further efforts by the council to support the county’s economy and its recovery from coronavirus, through the Social Value and Local Wealth Building (The County Durham Pound) project. Members will receive an update on the project which sees the council working with developers and suppliers to identify social value and wealth building opportunities. It also looks to ensure that social value and community wealth building are part of both the council’s response to Covid-19, and the delivery of the four priorities within the Council Plan 2020 – 2023.