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£850m paid out to keep Suffolk businesses afloat during pandemic

PUBLISHED: 09:00 22 November 2020

Suffolk small businesses have relied on government grant and loan schemes to stay afloat during Covid-19.  Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Suffolk small businesses have relied on government grant and loan schemes to stay afloat during Covid-19. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

More than £850million has been issued to keep Suffolk and Norfolk businesses afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to latest figures.

Chris Starkie, New Anglia LEP chief executive, said job support was one of the key priorities in the LEP's economic recovery plan. Picture: DAVID GARRADChris Starkie, New Anglia LEP chief executive, said job support was one of the key priorities in the LEP's economic recovery plan. Picture: DAVID GARRAD

Data by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) found that £399m in small business grants had been issued from the government to 34,000 firms in Norfolk and Suffolk, while a further £459m in borrowing had been delivered to Suffolk firms through bounceback loans and CBILS (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme).

Chris Starkie, chief executive of the LEP said insolvency rates had been lower than anticipated, and highlighted that the small business grants alone equated to “around half of the business base”.

MORE: Suffolk Public Sector Leaders agree new Covid recovery pot for businesses

He added: “That has been a monumental effort from local authority teams getting that money out to businesses you sometimes didn’t know their addresses.

“That money doesn’t include the new grants the local authorities are now dealing with.

“[Those schemes] probably explains why insolvency levels are lower but we are anticipating and concerned about what the spring will bring when those loans have to start to be repaid, and that will be part of our collective work.”

Those government schemes have been supplemented by additional local measures, including a £1.6m pot being established in Suffolk from pooled business rates and LEP cash called the Suffolk Inclusive Growth Investment Fund, that will be open for firms to bid for a portion of.

Elsewhere, Mr Starkie said job support and apprenticeships have been among the priorities for the economic fightback.

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“The economy has been under real strain, unemployment has risen and will continue to rise,” he told Friday’s Suffolk Public Sector Leaders gathering of council, police and health service bosses.

“Universal Credit claims have risen quite sharply, often in areas which haven’t had significant rises in the past - particularly places like Leiston which has had a sharp rise that in previous recessions some locations hadn’t had.

“The net increase has been higher in places like Leiston and Mildenhall.

“There has of course been a drop in apprenticeships and we know young people have been significantly affected by the downturn.

“One interesting trend is insolvencies have been less than might have been expected, and probably the number of job losses isn’t as bad as our worst case scenario.

“That is partly because of the interventions – the furlough scheme and grants for cultural businesses.”

The LEP published an economic recovery plan at the end of June, designed to be agile and evolving as the pandemic situation changed, and outlined areas needed to get the economy back on its feet.

MORE: County facing 20,000 new unemployed from Covid-19 crisis

That included responding to higher levels of redundancies, keeping supply chains open, allowing high street stores to trade safely and ensure safe and sustainable public transport was in place.

An additional recovery plan has been formed around the county’s vital visitor economy, which stretches across the coastal destinations in the east through to the strong horse-racing activity in the west.


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