‘Won’t even cover rents’ - £215m East Anglia lockdown fund may not be enough, says leader

Business leaders have questioned whether £215million is enough to help the East's ailing businesses. Picture: SARAH LUCY...

Business leaders have questioned whether £215million is enough to help the East's ailing businesses. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

A £215million government fund to help East Anglian businesses bounce back after the second coronavirus lockdown may not be enough and “won’t even cover rents” in some cases, a business leader has said.

The money will be given to local authorities, who will then administer grants to businesses - one worth up to £3,000 for firms which have been forced to close, and another to give businesses further support.

The funds have been welcomed by business leaders in the region - but one said that, for many smaller firms, the money simply might not be enough.

Andrew Mower, East of England development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The latest round of support is a big step forward, but confidence among the region’s businesses is low and many are facing a hugely difficult winter.

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“The grants are welcome news but the truth is that they pale in comparison to those that were available in the spring.

“In many cases, they won’t even cover rents.

“It’s vital that local authorities ensure that the discretionary funding they’ve been given promptly reaches those businesses in most need.

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“In particular, we’re eager to see thought given to suppliers to the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, as many have missed out on support so far despite Covid’s devastating impact on their trade.”

Mr Mower added Brexit could put further pressure on businesses.

“There remains little clarity about the future EU relationship,” he said.

“Businesses have lost money in the past stockpiling for the possibility of an unsuccessful outcome but can’t afford to do it again.”

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Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said the support is “very welcome”, alongside measures such as the extension of the furlough scheme and government loan schemes.

On Brexit, he added: “We know that many businesses are not fully prepared for the end of the transition period, which is in less than 50 days.

“A number of changes will come into force from January 1 and it’s important that business owners take some time to make sure they are ready.

“We know that this continues to be an incredibly challenging time for our region’s businesses.

“Anyone needing advice can access free support through the New Anglia Growth Hub on 0300 333 6536.”