The speed at which Coronavirus has transformed our lives has been unprecedented, and that has had a significant impact on our local business community. I know that the measures announced have been tough for many – with some forced to close and others able to stay open, but with business significantly down.
That is why I have been liaising closely with relevant Government Minister’s to ensure the support we need locally is in place and, importantly, being delivered. That is the only way we will ensure that once this period is over we can restart. Securing the economic growth we need to ensure the jobs everyone relies on are still here.
On Monday, a month to the day since the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – securing thousands of jobs for us locally which would otherwise be lost to redundancy – HMRC launched its online portal for claims. Companies that have furloughed workers can now apply for the grant to cover wages, with payment happening in just 6 days. This is a vital step in allowing businesses to continue to tide themselves over until the restrictions are lifted and people can get back to work.
And I know business lending has also been an issue, with many trying to access the Business Interruption Loan Scheme but being told applications can take months to process. Recognising this, the Government worked with lenders to amend the scheme to increase access and availability. Having worked with lenders on several constituent cases I know these are now flowing to our businesses locally.
Many of our small local businesses are also eligible for business grants which will provide a lifeline of financial support from the Government at this time, recognising the immense pressure the current crisis is having on them. Having spoken to the Council extensively on how payments are progressing I am pleased to say that over 75% of those who have applied have now seen their application processed. That’s either paid or about to be paid - delivering over £11 million in Government grants locally. There are, however, still over 800 businesses in Burnley and Padiham who are eligible for the scheme but have not yet contacted the council to register payment details. If you are one of these, please contact them as soon as you can so we can make sure you are getting the support you need.
The final big scheme that is being worked on is that for our self-employed people, which will provide a significant financial boost for the thousands of people who have taken the risk to work for themselves. I am continuing to speak to HMRC and the Treasury about progress on delivering a solution for this and have been assured that it will be ready by mid-May as promised.
When Government announces big new schemes and projects it often takes years to see a result, but during this crisis we’ve all been working around the clock and on the whole support is being delivered at pace to those who need it the most.