Local businesses welcome additional lockdown grants

  • Video report by Fiona Marley Paterson

Businesses in Cumbria and the south of Scotland have largely welcomed the news that they will receive additional funding. Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the new measures in a statement today.

Those in England will receive support grants worth up to £9,000 to help them survive the latest Covid lockdown, which is expected to last at least six weeks.

Firms in the retail, hospitality and leisure industries - which will be closed until at the earliest mid-February - will receive a one-off cash sum worth up to £9,000 with the amount provided depending on the value of their business.

A further £594 million is also being made available for Local Authorities and the Devolved Administrations to support other businesses not eligible for the grants that might be affected by the restrictions - businesses should apply to their Local Authority for the support.

This means the Scottish Government will receive £375m to support businesses north of the border.

The additional funding is largely welcomed. Paul Lowther, the owner of 24/7 Fitness in Dumfries told us, "It's everything you know we've had to freeze all our payments, we've just basically put a pause on all our income so without this we can't really survive because we've still got bills to pay and rent to pay and stuff so without this we can't really survive."

The Treasury said the one-off grants will be linked to business rates, with payments of £4,000 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or less, £6,000 for businesses with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000, and £9,000 for businesses with a rateable value of more than £51,000.

However, Cumbria Tourism warns many businesses are still falling through the gaps, ineligible for support. Managing Director Gill Haig told ITV Border, "Throughout the last nine months that has been the case. We need to know what this means for those businesses that don't have rateable values. There is information in there around discretionary grants but again that discretion falls down to the individual local authorities as I understand it. We went into tier four at one of the busiest times of the year and it wasn't just the fact that businesses had to close but it was all that lost money that had already been invested in food and drink etc."

The cash comes on top of to billions of existing business support, including grants worth up to £3,000 for closed businesses, and up to £2,100 per month for impacted businesses once they reopen.

The government has already provided £1.1 billion of discretionary funding for local authorities, extended the furlough scheme until April and taxpayer-backed business loans until March.

When asked whether he would be prepared to extend furlough for as long as it takes, Mr Sunak said the budget in March "is an excellent opportunity to take stock of the range of support that we've put in place and to set out the next stage of our economic response to coronavirus".