Coronavirus update: Council pledges to support businesses affected by pandemic

A council has pledged to do everything in its power to quickly implement the support announced by Government for businesses and workers impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Durham County Council is urging businesses to take advantage of the support packages announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Friday. This includes accessing the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which will see the Government pay 80 per cent of employee’s salaries up to £2,500 per month to maintain employment and support their workforce.

Guidance on the 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and relevant nursery providers has also now been confirmed and council staff are busy processing these changes with revised bills due to be issued in the coming days. Teams are also poised to implement the grants schemes once the final guidance is issued by Government, which is expected this week. These schemes, aimed at those businesses in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief and businesses with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000, will see the council issue grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 in the coming days, once the national guidelines are published.

The council is also working closely with colleagues at Business Durham and Visit County Durham to actively promote all of the support on offer. Information has been uploaded on to the council and Business Durham websites and this is being regularly updated. Last week the council wrote to all businesses that would be eligible for support through the announcements made by the Government.

Cllr Carl Marshall, the council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “Across the county, we’ve worked tirelessly to build our economy and create jobs because we know how vital they are to our residents and their families. The progress we’ve made in the last ten years would not have been possible without the hard work and passion of our skilled workforce. That’s why it’s vital businesses, large and small, utilise the funds being made available and do everything they can to retain their employees.

“Accessing the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will guarantee workers receive 80 per cent of their wages and is the best way to ensure the funds go to working people.”

Cllr Marshall added: “The measures introduced by the Government are welcome, but we now need the chancellor to step up and support sole traders, many of whom can’t access any of this support and are the backbone of business and communities across County Durham.

“From talking to businesses, we know that there has been a high level of concern and frustration that the detail of the initiatives announced by the Government has not been made available. I would like to reassure you that, as a council, we are ready to act quickly to activate these schemes as soon as they become available.”

The council is also taking additional steps to ease the burden on businesses, including arranging to pay its own suppliers immediately rather than wait the standard 30 days, suspending debt recovery action and offering three-month rent deferrals for tenants in Business Durham’s commercial properties.

Virtual employability sessions are also being offered to job seekers and grants to help cover the cost of home working technology are being offered through the Digital Drive County Durham programme.

Advice for businesses and employees in County Durham can be found at www.durham.gov.uk and at www.businessdurham.co.uk/news-events-county-durham/covid-19-information.

For the latest advice and information from the Government, visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

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