It was great to see stories of Covid-hit businesses that had been helped by Ipswich Borough Council in the Star and East Anglian last week.
The Government has relied heavily on councils to deliver support to businesses over the last eighteen months. National business rates holidays and grants to lockdown-closed businesses were all administered by local councils.
The Government also realised that, while many businesses were being helped by national support schemes, there were still a lot that were falling through the cracks. They also recognised that councils were best placed to identify these businesses and gave us money with very few strings attached to devise our own local support schemes.
So, in Ipswich last summer we were able to offer grants to market traders, floating restaurants like Mariners, the Orwell Lady, and Allen Gardiner, and pubs like the Greyhound, Halberd, and Woolpack who had been excluded from national help.
The latest pot of money we are working with is the Additional Restrictions Grant.
Originally around £3.9m with a deadline to be spent by April 2022 it was then increased by £835,000 as part of a programme to reward councils who had been successful in helping their local businesses.
We have used this to provide support for businesses forced to close by national lockdowns or staff self-isolation, increased minimum payments to pubs, and grants to independent town centre retailers, taxi drivers, children’s nurseries, and businesses not eligible for the Government’s Restart Grants.
We have just announced the next two grants from this pot.
The first is a Business Hardship Grant for small Ipswich businesses still suffering ongoing losses from Covid and at risk of closure.
The second is a Business Growth and Innovation Grant which looks beyond Covid to help the local economy grow. It provides a grant of up to £10,000 for local businesses that have identified a project, product, service, or process that enables innovative recovery from the impact of Covid, where we will fund up to half the project costs.
We’re not out of the woods with Covid yet but I’m proud that the support from Ipswich Borough Council has helped so many local businesses weather this unprecedented storm and hopefully enabled them to continue to trade for many years to come.