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One on one: Talking Covid-19 business grants with Croydon Council

In March 2020, the Government announced a series of financial interventions which included the Job Retention Scheme, Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants, the ever so popular Bounce Back Loans and of course the Business Rates Holiday for 2020-2021 amongst others. Local authorities oversaw the distribution and management of these financial support measures to safeguard businesses during the first lockdown.
 
As 2020 progressed, we entered a tier system whereby restrictions on England and Wales fluctuated based on the number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents of a given area. There are now a number of different grants available applying to different tiers, different sectors, all of which is proving a little confusing for businesses to get to grips with. In total, by November, there were 10 different grants available to busineses. 
 
We talk with Carol Squires, Head of Economic Development about the grant process and how they are working to support the business community during a period of sustained economic challenge. 
 
“Local authorities across England and Wales have worked tirelessly since the start of the lockdown in April 2020 to ensure the delivery of grants to businesses. Of late, the team at Croydon Council has been administering the Local Restrictions Support Grant and the Additional Restrictions Support Grant funding to thousands of businesses across the borough. 
 
With respect to the process on first hearing of a financial grant to the point at which it is ready to be delivered is one that involves a number of different teams from economic development, business rates, digital and communications teams coming together to provide the necessary steps to deliver what is needed. We have learnt a great deal in a very short space of time, creating the mechanisms that will enable the funds to flow quickly to businesses. 
 
The Council understands that at times there, in amongst all that is going on, has been a level of confusion as to which grants apply to which business and we have been working round the clock to not only rectify some of our processes but most importantly of all to speak with businesses, to provide the clear business support they need and ultimately make sure they have their grant funding. 
As we have seen throughout this pandemic, the need not only for strong communications but communications that provides a clear and direct message to our business is so important. We have worked on a suite of communications tools to support businesses including the Croydon Council business newsletter which we advise local businesses to sign up to (link below). In doing so, businesses can keep up to date with the latest information coming out of Croydon Council. Working with the local business improvement districts, we have worked tirelessly to contact business through a variety of methods to make sure businesses are made aware of the support that is available to them. 
 
In particular, the need to communicate clearly has never been so important when referring to the LRSG and ARSG funds. We have created one portal for all of the grants with a streamlined process which should make it far easier for businesses to apply. Not all grants fit for all businesses. For example, the LRSG fund is available to businesses who have a Business Rates Account Number. The ARSG fund is a discretionary fund and is available only to those businesses that have no Business Rates Account. Once you have your number, your Companies House number, your Business Bank details and VAT number (if relevant), then you can apply through the link below. With a wealth of different grants available, it is important to work through the steps making sure the grant applies to you and your business. If you are unsure, contact our team on 020 8726 7000 or email croynndr@croydon.gov.uk
 
We have worked with countless numbers of businesses across the past nine months and will continue to do so as we progress through into 2021. The team has been on hand at every turn, responding to queries, updating businesses and offering support where they can provide it. I want businesses to feel rest assured that we will not stop and that we will keep going, delivering on behalf of the businesses across the borough. We understand the challenges and are totally sympathetic to the needs of our business community. 
 
As a local authority, we have to consider how we can positively affect the business sectors both in the present and future. We are actively looking at funding and how we can work with sectors most in need, releasing grants that will support business survival for the future. We are limited, there is no doubt but what is important to emphasise is that the team from leader to officer, will do all they can to create opportunities for business in times like these. 
 
What has been clear throughout the entire process is the need for collaboration at every step. Croydon Business Improvement District (BID) has played a major role in supporting businesses across the borough in delivering the national Raise the Bar campaign of which we supported as a founding partner. Government policy has now been adjusted to consider those businesses with a rateable value of £51k+ and I believe, in part, that this was very much down to our collective approach to supporting business. The team at Croydon BID continues to represent their members locally, working with my team in meeting your needs. 
 
There is no doubt that these are dark days but together, we will get through it.”
 
Croydon BID would like to thank Croydon Council for their continued support of the business community. If you have any queries regarding the available grants, concerns or issues, please don’t hesitate in contacting the team at Croydon Council (carol.squires@croydon.gov.uk) or Croydon BID (matthew.sims@croydonbid.com). 
 
 

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