Staffordshire businesses and employees will receive a further boost through new county-specific support programmes launched over the next fortnight to help lessen the impact of the pandemic on them.
With figures released today showing that 4.6 per cent of Staffordshire residents are currently claiming out-of-work benefits, county economy leader Philip White said the latest programmes strengthened an already comprehensive targeted support package. He added that enabling small businesses to survive and thrive is crucial to job protection and creation.
The latest figure for Staffordshire (up to the end of January) remains the same rate as the previous month, with a slight decrease in claimants. It remains lower than both regional (7.1 per cent) and national (6.3 per cent) figures.
This week there will be the launch of a countywide support programme with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and will be followed by three schemes with district and borough councils. These will see county council investment pooled with additional restrictions grant funding. This is allocated by the government to each district and borough council to support businesses whose operations have been severely impacted by lockdown restrictions.
Philip White, who is also Staffordshire County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for economy and skills said:
“Today’s statistics show a gradual decline in those claiming out of work benefits which is good news and shows that our businesses and economy have remained resilient throughout the pandemic period. Our latest business support programmes will see us working with each of our district and borough councils and national support body the FSB. As a county council we are investing where it matters, and by pooling our resource with others we will see the most effective results.
“These schemes add to our growing package of support through our Staffordshire Means Back to Business programme. Small businesses are vital to the county economy, employing thousands and providing valuable services to our communities.
“We are mindful that the national furlough scheme is due to end in April and while this may be extended, we want to ensure that here in Staffordshire we have put an appropriate range of support initiatives in place that will make a difference. And following yesterday’s announcement by the Prime Minister, we can now look forward to our economy getting back on its feet as many more businesses begin to reopen and people return to their workplace.
“There will though be tough times ahead as we move forward from the pandemic and that is why we have put in place a long-term recovery strategy. Staffordshire is and will continue to be a great place to do business, invest, work and study.”
The new joint schemes are the FSB free membership scheme, Staffordshire 500 Apprentices Wage Support programme, which would see up to 500 apprentices created; the Nil Cost Training for Employers Top-up Project – providing support to businesses to upskill employees or train new staff and the Small Business ‘To Thrive’ Financial Support programme. This would offer grants to small businessesbetween £2,000 and £5,000 to cover expenditure costs essential to their operations.