More than 230 small businesses across the city are to receive £5,000 grants from today (Friday) to help them through the coronavirus pandemic.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is allocating the lifeline funding to 238 businesses, totalling £1.3m, under the Local Authority Discretionary Grant scheme. A further wave of grants will be made available, as part of the £2.8m total scheme, in the coming weeks.
Council leader Abi Brown said: “We have moved quickly to allocate this funding, and we want as many small businesses as possible to be able to benefit. The funding is a lifeline that can help businesses to keep going through the restrictions in response to the coronavirus.
“From today (Friday) businesses such as those occupying shared spaces, market traders and charities that successfully applied for funding will be getting this cash. We’ll be launching further grants as part of the scheme in the coming weeks. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our city, and we know that the coronavirus has impacted on so many. We are continuing to provide a range of support to businesses and I’m pleased that this money is going to help them through this most testing of times.”
The authority is allocating the funding from today (Friday) after the deadline for applications closed on 3 June. In 22 of the applications, more information is required from businesses, and the authority is working with them to check details before grant payments can be made.
The allocations come as the authority has also administered a total of £49.3m in grants to 4,316 small businesses and those in the retail, leisure and hospitality industries. A total of 92 per cent of small businesses identified by the council under the scheme have received grants. The authority has not yet received applications from 394 businesses that may be eligible. Businesses are encouraged to check the criteria and apply via: www.stoke.gov.uk/businessgrants.
Meanwhile, the council has announced that parking on any of their 42 car parks in towns and the city centre will be free until the end of June, to support businesses, shoppers and visitors in the recovery from the coronavirus.
During the coronavirus restrictions, parking enforcement had been eased to support key workers and in light of national advice that people should only make essential journeys.
Councillor Brown said: “We want to send a clear message to businesses and visitors to our shops and towns: we are supporting you as much as we can do and this city is open for business. We know how difficult the last three months have been through the lockdown, and by making our car parks free until the end of June, we want to make it as easy as possible for people to return.
“The reopening of high street shops and other retail means that footfall in the city will start to increase and this contribution will certainly help in the short-term as our economy starts to recover. We continue to urge residents to follow safety advice set out in Covid-19 secure shops, markets and other retail outlets and to adhere to the markers and safety measures put in place in various locations to help with this.”
Traffic enforcement patrols will also be stepping up from next week and residents and businesses are reminded to be mindful of parking respectfully and in line with restrictions given the anticipated increase in traffic.
A range of council services will resume from Monday (15 June):
- The registrar service in Hanley Town Hall will open, for the registering of births. However, there is a large backlog, and the service will only be taking appointments arranged in advance.
- Learning disability day service buildings at The Meadows in Bentilee and Waterside in Newstead will reopen to support residents and carers.
- Indoor markets in Fenton, Hanley, Longton and Tunstall will open from 17 June. Stoke Indoor Market has remained open during lockdown for essential goods, and additional stalls will open there too from 17 June.
- Bentilee outdoor market will open from 16 June, initially with just registered traders.
The markets will operate with restricted entrance and exit arrangements, with hand sanitisers in place and one-way systems for shoppers. Stoke City’s community trust team will be out in the markets, supporting shoppers, advising them on safety measures and guiding them round the one-way systems in place.
Adrian Hurst, head of Stoke City’s Community Trust, said: “We are delighted to be helping the council to re-open four of the city’s indoor markets following the relaxing of lockdown rules. Eight members of our community staff will be assisting council employees and helping them to ensure social distance restrictions are adhered to.”
Meanwhile, a range of measures are being introduced in town centres and the city centre to support the safe return of workers, shoppers and visitors. This work includes barriers to restrict entrances and exits to busy shops. There are stencil marks at 109 locations across the city centre, spacing out two metre distancing for shoppers to go into shops, as well as colourful welcome to the city centre stencils on the ground. Stores have guidance in their own windows to show the measures being put in place for shoppers to shop safely. Roads such as Huntbach Street in the city centre have been narrowed so that pavements can be widened to support queuing shoppers. Premises such as banks, Boots and KFC have all been open in the city centre this week, while shops including Primark, TK Maxx and the intu Potteries shopping centre will all open from Monday (15 June). Social distancing measures are in place at the city centre bus station, including reducing the number of seats available, directional markings and social distancing guidance.
Councillor Brown said: “Lockdown restrictions are easing further, but it is still vitally important that we all follow the national advice and people only make journeys when they need to. A lot of work has been taking place across our towns and in partnership with businesses so that people can return safely. We want to reassure visitors to our centres that their health and wellbeing is at the forefront of all of our plans, and we ask people to follow the arrangements being put in place, for their own safety.”
For more information and advice on coronavirus (Covid-19) please visit Public Health England:
https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/01/23/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-what-you-need-to-know/ and the NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.
All residents are reminded about the critical importance of regular handwashing with soap and hot water for 20 seconds. The significance of this action cannot be underestimated.
For more information on digital services, visit www.stoke.gov.uk, download the MyStoke App, or follow the city council’s social media channels.
For all media enquiries please contact Andrew Brunt in the Communications Department at Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 01782 232671.
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