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Revealed – Hundreds of millions paid to Suffolk businesses in coronavirus support

PUBLISHED: 05:30 22 April 2020

More than £104million in business support grants have been handed to Suffolk businesses to keep them afloat while the coronavirus lockdown continues. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

More than £104million in business support grants have been handed to Suffolk businesses to keep them afloat while the coronavirus lockdown continues. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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More than £100million in crucial business grants have been handed out to businesses in Suffolk – but thousands are yet to claim, new data shows.

Chris Starkie from the New Anglia LEP urged businesses to take up the grants. Picture: NEW ANGLIAChris Starkie from the New Anglia LEP urged businesses to take up the grants. Picture: NEW ANGLIA

The Government’s business grant scheme announced during the coronavirus lockdown allocated a total pot of just over £213million to Suffolk’s five district and borough councils to distribute to small businesses in need of support.

MORE: Ipswich business outlines business grant lifeline as council urges firms to apply

Latest data revealed that as of April 19, nearly half of that had been handed to firms reliant on the grant in order to survive – £104m being allocated to 9,227 businesses.

Councils were tasked with identifying businesses in their districts which were eligible for the fund, and were contacted directly.

But according to the figures, there were 6,295 businesses which were outstanding – many of which had not applied.

Beth Cook and Hannah Huntly who run Applaud Coffee said the grant had been vital for covering their running costs during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: DAVID VINCENTBeth Cook and Hannah Huntly who run Applaud Coffee said the grant had been vital for covering their running costs during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: DAVID VINCENT

One council in the county said some firms it had spoken to did not even know it was a grant, but thought it was a loan.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), urged businesses to take up the grants and get in touch with their local authority.

“This money has been provided by Government to support local businesses during these very challenging times and accessing the support is simple,” he said.

“You’ll be paid directly by your local authority and you won’t need to pay it back, so if you haven’t already been contacted about a grant and think you might be eligible, contact your council to find out what you might be entitled to.

John Dugmore from Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said some of the government support needed simplified access.  Picture: DAVID GARRADJohn Dugmore from Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said some of the government support needed simplified access. Picture: DAVID GARRAD

“The Government has announced a raft of measures to support businesses and employees, which are very welcome.

“However we realise that understanding what is available and how to claim can be daunting, so I would encourage anyone whose business has been affected to contact the New Anglia Growth Hub.

“Our business advisers can talk you through what help is available, signpost you towards the support you need and ensure you have the latest information.”

Many businesses said the grant was a lifesaver, as it enabled them to pay rent and overheads while there was no income coming in.

Hannah Huntly and Beth Cook, who run Applaud Coffee in Ipswich received their grant in just eight days, and said: “We are feeling well supported by both the government and Ipswich Borough Council.

MORE: Follow the Suffolk Coronavirus Facebook page for latest updates

“Applaud Coffee would like to say a big thank you to all who have been working behind the scenes to help small businesses like us.”

Earlier this week, applications opened for the furloughing scheme where the government will effectively pay 80% of staff wages in a bid to prevent workers being laid off and a deepened economic crisis to settle once lockdown measures have eased.

East Suffolk Council, England’s largest district council, had more than twice as many firms eligible as other authorities in Suffolk, and had a pot of £101m alone to dish out. So far, around £37m had been allocated.

While the grant has been welcomed, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has warned that firms are still facing issues which needed to be addressed.

John Dugmore from the Chamber said: “Overall, we’re pleased to see to see that Suffolk councils are making progress in getting rates relief into the hands of qualifying hard-pressed businesses.

“Our weekly member survey shows, however, that other Government schemes seem to be failing the very businesses they are designed to assist.

“In particular, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme seems unnecessarily complicated with conflicting advice about eligibility for such loans being offered by different banks.

“We have drawn the mounting concerns of our members over this to all of Suffolk’s MPs, as we now have constituency by constituency data, and we are pressing them to be more vocal in backing their local businesses by getting the Government to simplify the process and to widen which firms can qualify in the first place.

MORE: East Suffolk contacts 7,000 businesses over grant support

“We are looking forward to working with all partners across the county to help Suffolk businesses start to rebuild their confidence and activity in the months ahead.”

To stay up to date with all the latest coronavirus updates in Suffolk, sign up for the EADT daily newsletter here, or bookmark the coronavirus topic page here.

To get support through the LEP’s Growth Hub, contact 0300 333 6536 or email here.


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