Lancashire's small businesses in line for £1.5m in Covid recovery cash
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The county has been handed the third-highest amount in the country under a scheme that will see cash distributed to small and medium-sized enterprises.
The cash, originating from the European Regional Development Fund, will be split between the visitor economy in the region – which will receive £425,000 – and other sectors, for which £1.1m will be made available.
In other areas, the grants may enable businesses to seek specialist advice to mitigate the fallout from the pandemic by consulting experts in areas such as finance, IT and health and safety.
Small-scale purchases of equipment to help firms “adapt or adopt” new technology in order to maintain their business – or diversify it – are also encouraged.
It is expected that most businesses will be eligible to apply for grants of between £1,000 and £3,000 – although an upper limit of £5,000 has been set for “exceptional” plans.
Applications will open early next month, with the money paid in arrears once companies have supplied evidence of their expenditure. Around 500 grants are expected to be made.
County council leader Geoff Driver welcomed the initiative, which will be administered by officials at County Hall.
Labour opposition group leader John Fillis suggested that businesses could also benefit from the county convening a meeting with banks and finance houses to appeal for greater support for Lancashire firms.
“Many small businesses are frightened to go to the bank at this time, believing that if they raise concerns about their income, the bank will cut off their credit facilities straight away,” County Cllr Fillis explained.
However, County Cllr Driver said that Lancashire’s business growth hub , “BOOST”, was already looking into that issue.
Cabinet members heard that the organisation has received 6,000 enquiries about Covid-related support and business opportunities since the pandemic began.
Back in June, Lancashire laid out an economic recovery pitch to the government, which revealed that 19,000 jobs had been lost in the county during the first few months of the pandemic – while the visitor economy was predicting a £3bn hit as a result of lockdown and the gradual reopening.