Small business and employee support set to be ramped up through Staffordshire councils’ partnership

Wednesday, 20th January 2021

A RAFT of new support programmes for small businesses and apprentices is set be launched through a Staffordshire councils’ partnership.

This will add to the package of business support already being delivered by the county council and programmes by a range of other organisations, including central Government.

The latest support programmes proposed would see an investment to fund wages for 500 apprentices, a training top-up fund for businesses to upskill their employees and a grants scheme to enable small businesses to thrive.

By pooling a targeted county council investment with district and borough council support funding, the programmes could get off the ground and benefit small businesses imminently. The three programmes would also be topped up by Government funding and other sources. With all combined funding, the total value of the schemes would be £5million.

Each borough and district council has an allocation of funding from the Government to support small businesses impacted by the pandemic called the Additional Restrictions Grant. The county council will invest £860,000 towards the scheme and run all three on behalf of the partnership if approved.

The Staffordshire 500, Apprentices Wage Support programme would see up to 500 apprentices created by incentivising employers to take on 16 to 24-year-olds by contributing to the cost of their wages. It would support smaller companies that do not pay into the national apprenticeship levy. The programme could also offer apprentices progression from the national Kickstart scheme.

Businesses would be offered support to upskill their employees or train new staff in accordance with their changing business operations or entering new markets through the Nil Cost Training for Employers Top-up Project. Grants of up to £5,000 would be provided and matched through other funding sources. Up to 400 Staffordshire businesses could be supported over the next 15 months through the programme.

The Small Business ‘To Thrive’ Financial Support programme would offer grants to small businesses between £2,000 and £5,000 to cover expenditure costs essential to their operations. Applicants would need to demonstrate all the measures they have put in place to remain open during the restriction period.

The new programmes would add to the package of support which has already been put in place by the county council. This includes a £615,000 investment in start-up business support.

The Start-up Scheme aims to give essential backing for up to 300 people to get their new business going and to survive the critical initial months. A Start-up Loans Scheme provides loans of between £3,000 and £5,000 to people who have completed the Staffordshire start-up course. A student start-up programme – Ignite – will engage with 400 students with a target of 20 business starts in its first year.

Staffordshire County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for economy and skills Philip White said:

“It is critical that as a county council we continue to prioritise support for small businesses and people whose jobs or employment prospects have been impacted by the pandemic.

“In an area like Staffordshire that has a county council plus district and borough councils with their own COVID-19 funding this support is far more effectively delivered by close collaborative working between councils and a range of other partners to make our respective funding go further. We hope that our three new programmes will enable the Additional Restrictions Grant to reach more people affected by the pandemic. We owe it to businesses and communities to direct all available funding where it is needed most, and vitally to make it accessible as soon as possible.

“The new programmes are designed to complement existing support schemes and cover gaps in the assistance already available. We look forward to working with colleagues across our district and boroughs to get them off the ground imminently.”

The schemes proposals were backed by the county council’s cabinet today.