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£100m ‘lifeline’ funding has helped city businesses survive and recover from Covid-19 pandemic

Published: Tuesday, 26th April 2022

Businesses across Stoke-on-Trent have benefited from a total of £100m in crucial funding to help them through the paralysing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Businesses are set for a further £5.6m boost.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council moved quickly to distribute thousands of grants over the past two years to keep businesses going through crippling lockdowns, restart as restrictions lifted and now continue their recovery.

In total, the authority has paid out mandatory grants in the form of:

  • £38,400,000 in small business grants to 3,840 businesses
  • £14,055,000 in grants to 797 businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors
  • £12,056,864 in restart grants to 1,058 businesses
  • £12,995,568 in local restrictions support grants to 1,826 businesses
  • £8,352,000 in closed business lockdown payments to 1,798 businesses
  • £962,730 in Omicron hospitality and leisure grants to 291 businesses
  • £124,000 in Christmas support payments to 124 businesses.

The council has also given out more than £12m in discretionary grants, local restrictions support grants and additional restrictions grants to 2,842 businesses since the start of the pandemic to rapidly support businesses in urgent need.

Now the authority’s cabinet has today (Tuesday) announced the council will be distributing a further £5.6m in new national Covid-19 Additional Relief Fund money to businesses who meet set criteria. The money will be applied as relief to business rates for the current financial year. The authority is writing directly to 1,841 businesses who may be eligible for the funding.

Council leader Abi Brown said: “We know how important the funding we have given out to businesses has been over the past two years. Without it, many businesses in our city would have gone under. We were not prepared to let that happen and moved heaven and earth to ensure we distributed funding as soon as possible to eligible businesses. The government has made a wide range of national grant schemes available during the pandemic, we made sense of these schemes for our local businesses, supporting them where needed in helping them to apply for and accessing the funding, and getting it to them quickly. It’s been a huge logistical operation and it is testament to our fantastic businesses right across the city that they have kept going through the toughest challenges we have faced in generations and are now coming out the other side, surviving, recovering and prospering again.

“Supporting our city’s economy is a key priority for this authority, and again we’ll be helping eligible businesses get the new relief funding as quickly and as smoothly as possible.”

During the height of the pandemic, Abbey Hulton F.C., like sports clubs across the country, closed their ground. It meant that they couldn’t fulfil their fixtures and welcome fans in to watch, but also that their hospitality facilities had to close, a source of extra income for the club.

Club committee member Simon Laidler said: “We were fortunate enough to secure two grants from the council during the different waves of funding and it massively helped us. We were not able to put on any events during lockdown and we lost thousands of pounds. We were at a critical point and would have struggled to keep going without the funding, not just for the first team to play at a non-league level, but the kids’ soccer that we run from the club and all of the community activities. The funding has genuinely massively helped.”

The authority has not only been able to give money out to help businesses survive at a time of crisis, its business growth team has also used additional restrictions grants to help local businesses power up again from the pandemic. Longport-based ProtectaPet is now looking to expand into bigger premises after securing grant support and advice from the council to diversify its offer. The company makes bespoke and technical cat enclosures to help families ensure their cats have access to safe outdoor spaces.

Communications director Eve Davies said: “We started the company after we unfortunately lost our own cat in a road traffic accident some years ago. We design specialist fencing and enclosures to give cats freedom and families reassurance that their pets are safe. We’re really grateful for the funding because it has meant that we have been able to develop our website. Previously our team could explain to customers on the phone about what solutions could work in their gardens, but now we can actually do this digitally online. It’s meant that customers can visually see how we can work with them on the best solutions for their gardens and it has made a huge difference to our business.”