Press Releases week beginning 15 June 2020
This week's headlines
Council pays out nearly £20m in COVID-19 business grants
As of Monday 15 June, Hastings Borough Council had paid out over £19m of the government grant allocated to help small businesses and businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors with the impact of COVID-19.
This is out of the just under £28m it was allocated by the government. However, the council has estimated that the actual total amount payable for these grants to Hastings' businesses is only just over £22.5m. The council does not know how the government calculated the £28m allocation of funding for Hastings.
These grants have been important in supporting Hastings' small business community through these challenging times. The council is doing all it can to contact the remaining businesses who are eligible for the grant. Information about the grant can be found on the council's website.
The council has also developed a discretionary business grant scheme, to provide further help to Hastings' businesses. The information for this scheme can be found on the council's website.
Cllr Peter Chowney, lead for financial management and estates, said,
"The £19,190,000 we have paid out so far represents 85% of the amount that the council estimates could be paid out. As of today, we have paid out grants to 1,651 premises which amounts to 84% of the total premises we believe to be eligible - 1,974 in total.
"We started paying grants out on the 1 April and our system has been working well once we receive the necessary details from businesses. Our payment system has been quick, and we've been getting grants to most businesses within a couple of days.
"The council has been doing all it can to encourage the remaining eligible businesses to apply for this funding."
Cllr Kim Forward, leader of the council, added,
"Our officers have written, emailed, telephoned all the eligible businesses that we have had contact details for. We have contacted key business organisations in the town to encourage uptake. We have also been sharing information about the schemes with advertisements on social media, to reach as many people as possible via those channels, and in the council's e-newsletter, which goes out to over 36,000 residents.
"Councillors and some business organisations have been supplied with a list of addresses which are potentially eligible and have themselves provided local intelligence and have visited numerous premises. Council officers are continuing to try and contact businesses and owners who have not yet applied.
"We're hoping that as some shops are now re-opening and owners are returning to properties that have been empty, we may see more applications come in over the next week.
"I encourage all Hastings businesses to check the council's website to see if they are eligible and more so if they have received a letter or email from the council. Businesses must not miss this opportunity - as any leftover funding will be reclaimed by the government."
Cllr Peter Chowney also went on to say,
"The council's Discretionary Business Grant scheme was also launched last Wednesday and the deadline to apply is 9am on the 24 June. I would again urge all smaller businesses which were not eligible for the Small Business Rate Grant or the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant to also check the council's website and apply - as there is just over £1.1m that can be claimed via this funding scheme too.
"The council want to do everything we can to help support our local businesses, and we want to make sure that nobody misses out on any funding that may help them recover from the impact of COVID-19."
Keeping people safe and supporting businesses as lockdown eases
As Hastings' town centre and local high streets start to re-open for trade the council has been working hard to support local businesses coming out of lockdown.
As well as ensuring as many businesses as possible have received the grants they are entitled to the council has continued to make advice on safe re-opening practices available on its website. It has also been liaising with business organisations to get their views on the best way of allocating money provided by government to make high streets safe for shoppers and workers alike.
Although hotels, pubs and many tourist attractions remain closed, and the town is not yet ready to welcome an influx of tourists, many of the town's shops are open for business with social distancing measures in place, and there are many takeaway outlets offering food and drink to people out shopping or visiting the beach.
Council leader Cllr Kim Forward said,
"It is well known that Hastings has one of the lowest infection rates in the country and I want to personally thank everyone who has helped this happen.
"Our priority throughout this crisis has been, and continues to be, keeping residents healthy, supporting businesses financially, and helping them keep their employees safe. Many vulnerable residents have been assisted through the Hastings Community Hub, which has been a great success, and I'm really delighted how the voluntary sector and other partner agencies in the town have helped us make this happen.
"For businesses we've paid out nearly £20m in support grants and our new discretionary scheme has been developed to allow as many other businesses as possible to apply.
"It's great to see the high streets re-opening. We are keen to see our shops do well and the council is backing the buy local campaign - which is based on the fact that if everyone in the borough spent just £10 per week in local shops rather than online it would lock £20m into the local economy each year.
"We are also keen for this re-opening to happen safely. This week has been about retailers re-opening and getting ready to do business again in line with new guidelines. We don't want to see them overrun immediately. Next week we will be working with businesses to plan for welcoming tourists back to the town again.
We want to reiterate that the council is here for advice if businesses need it and they can come to us for help with adapting their operations to fit guidelines. Similarly, residents can also come to us to report any concerns they have about health and safety regulations being complied with.
"However, as lockdown measures ease, protecting our residents is perhaps even more important than before and may be more challenging than ever. I therefore want to thank the local community for the positive response to our position and their efforts to keep staying safe. When they do go out they should continue to plan accordingly, follow social distancing, and act sensibly."
John Bownas, Manager of Hastings Business Improvement District, said,
"The Council has been really supportive in loads of ways and we were pleased they shared information with us that allowed us to find around £1/2m of grants that businesses hadn't yet applied for - often because they didn't realise they were eligible. We've also had brilliant help from the community safety team, who agreed to redirect funding normally used for marshalling the taxi rank for other security measures. During lockdown we had a night time patrol to keep business premises secure, and this week we have re-tasked the contract to provide daytime retail patrols. We're having almost daily contact with various parts of the authority - from environmental health and licensing through to street cleaning and economic development and everyone is bending over backwards to help the borough's high streets get back on their feet."
Kevin Boorman, manager of 1066 Country Marketing, said,
"Across 1066 Country our tourism businesses welcome a cautious approach to re-opening, because although they are raring to go the 'new normal' means quite different ways of working for customers and staff, and they don't want to be overwhelmed from the start."