Covid recovery plan to help businesses and tourism sector
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Community leaders in East Suffolk are drawing up extensive investment plans to help businesses and the tourism sector recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
With shops forced into long periods of closure over the past year and holidays and daytrips severely restricted, there is huge concern over the district's economy - and fears many businesses may take years to recover, if at all.
In East Suffolk jobless totals have increased by 96% over the year with the number of people being unemployed increasing by over 3,400 to just over 7,000.
But council leaders believe targeted help will bring positive results and have set forward outline proposals which if supported by cabinet on March 2 will be fully developed, costed and implemented during the spring and summer this year.
The proposed district-wide schemes cover business start-up support, a general business recovery scheme, support for independent retail, and a gigabit voucher scheme to enable businesses to access the new ultrafast broadband network in Lowestoft.
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The aim of the new programme is to support the wider economic recovery in the district during 2021 and complement existing, long-term, and ambitious economic growth programmes.
The council has already allocated £89.5m of government grant funding to over 6,000 businesses since the start of the pandemic
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A new government funding programme called Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) will provide more help - and allows councils to use some of their allocation for longer-term business support measures.
East Suffolk has been awarded £7.2m of ARG and will use most of this as direct targeted help but expects to have £1.65m left for other projects to help business.
In addition the council is proposing to help the visitor economy by extending its support of The Suffolk Coast (TSC) Destination Management Organisation with a three-year £165,000 grant.
Craig Rivett, deputy leader and cabinet member with responsibility for economic development, said the impact on busineses of Covid-19 had been "dramatic and significant".
Recovery and start-up support through working with enterprise agencies, digital transformation, and town centre recovery schemes would be the main focus for the business recovery project.
Mr Rivett said: "The aim of the proposed additional business support measures in this report is to mitigate the impacts of the Covid downturn and support a strong economic recovery.
"Such an approach will support the creation of employment opportunities for all communities within our district. This supports the health and wellbeing of our communities as there is a strong link between positive physical and mental health and employment."