Stockport’s rapid and collaborative response to the disruption caused by Covid-19 has been welcomed by the Stockport business community.
Within hours of the Government’s initial warnings of the imminent and devastating effect that Covid-19 was about to inflict across the UK, Caroline Simpson, Corporate Director for Place at Stockport Council and her fellow officers pulled together an Economic Resilience Task Force – a group of business men and women representative of the Stockport business community – to pull together a plan of resistance and support.
The group meet regularly, usually daily, throughout the week via video conferencing to share strong and up-to-date information from businesses on the issues they are facing, to help respond to those concerns and to highlight to the Government the real day-to-day challenges being experienced.
Caroline Simpson explained the positive impact that the ER group and the Council’s response to the Covid-19 virus is having across Stockport:
“The impact of the Coronavirus is being felt right across the borough. We are working flat out to ensure that the concerns of our business community are immediately escalated to Government through the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
“The rate at which the Coronavirus is expected to spread is almost equivalent to the rate at which information and guidance is flowing from the Government, the NHS and Public Health England. It is vital that we disseminate that info as it is announced through one agreed, consistent communication channel which is what we are doing in conjunction with Marketing Stockport. Our partners there have set up a dedicated area of the website where all news and updates, including finance, health and recruitment is being uploaded as it breaks. This can be accessed via www.marketingstockport.co.uk/coronavirus
The Government has already announced a raft of financial measures to help ease the immediate strain for both businesses and for employers, including most recently for freelancers and the self-employed.
Stockport Council is preparing to deliver on two new grant funding schemes, Business Grants and Rates Relief where preparation is in underway to ensure payments can be processed from 1st April, as central funds are made available.
Grant funding is available of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses who occupy a property where the rateable value is between £15,000 and £51,000.
Business grant funding of £10,000 is available for all businesses (regardless of sector) who already qualify for Small Business Rates Relief. For many of these businesses the Council do not hold bank details, and therefore applicants need to complete an online form via Stockport Council’s website to provide bank details, company and VAT numbers (where applicable) in order to receive payments and can be accessed at – https://www.stockport.gov.uk/business-rates-support-measures
“This situation is absolutely unprecedented for a generation; there is understandably a lot of uncertainty, anxiety and enormous worry for business owners and their staff, for freelancers and the self-employed.
“We understand that business continuity is absolutely critical to ensure that we can continue to grow our economy post Covid-19. To achieve that, businesses need our imminent support and our teams are contacting businesses to explain the help available.
“Our financial and rates teams have implemented effective arrangements in preparation to get business support finance and advice out to businesses as quickly as possible.
“We will not take any Business Rates direct debits that are due in April for those properties entitled to the 100% Retail Relief and for businesses that are in the retail, hospitality or leisure industry, we have suspended all recovery action for an initial three-month period. We will also consider requests from other businesses and organisations based on their circumstances.
“Along with our partners, we are working hard to ensure that businesses receive maximum support and that, as hard as it may seem, disruption is kept to a minimum.”
The Government is also continually updating information and guidance for Employers and Employees at: Government – Business Support: