Two-million-pound loan fund to back small businesses through pandemic recovery
A £2million loan fund for small businesses facing difficulties accessing essential finance as they look to overcome the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will see its latest round open in April. The three-year Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Business Loan Fund will provide loans from £10,000 to £50,000 to companies across a range of sectors. It is the latest support programme delivered by the county council as part of its Staffordshire Means Back to Business long-term strategy. It will see the county working with Stoke-on-Trent City Council and not-for-profit organisation BCRS Business Loans, which will administer the programme for both councils. Staffordshire County Council has worked with BCRS for over a decade. Its first Staffordshire Business Loan Fund was set up to support businesses after the global financial crash of 2008. The 2021 fund will be made up of contributions from the county council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, BCRS, European Regional Development Fund and the North Staffordshire Risk Capital Fund. Staffordshire County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for economy and skills Philip White said: “The business loan fund supports small viable companies to access essential finance where they have struggled with commercial lenders. “This, like all the programmes we have launched since our Staffordshire Means Back to Business strategy began last summer, is targeted support where it is needed most. We have worked successfully with BCRS for a long time and will combine our efforts with colleagues at Stoke-on-Trent for this round of funding. “Originally set up in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, in 2021 we are focusing on overcoming the immense challenges to businesses resulting from Covid-19. The loan fund has previously enabled businesses to expand, diversify and take on new employees. It has supported companies across a range of sectors from manufacturing to professional services. “Over the next three years we will build on this success – supporting 200 business which will contribute to our economic growth and create jobs in our communities.” The chief executive of BCRS Business Loans, Stephen Deakin, said: “We are delighted to be working with Staffordshire County Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council again after delivering five successful loans funds in the past. “The new loan fund will build on this support as small businesses start to shift their efforts towards recovering from the extensive impacts of Covid-19. We understand that small businesses are looking for a relationship-based approach to lending, where dedicated finance professionals assess each loan application based on its own merits, rather than using impersonal computerised credit scoring systems. “As a not-for-profit lender dedicated to social and economic impact, we believe that no viable business in Staffordshire should go unsupported and are pleased to extend additional funding support to them via this fund.” Since the Staffordshire Means Back to Business strategy was launched last summer, a range of support has been put in place by the county council, including a comprehensive package for start-up enterprises and grants for small businesses. Information on the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Business Loan Fund and a range of other business support programmes is available through the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Growth Hub at www.stokestaffsgrowthhub.co.uk Alternatively small businesses can register their interest in the business loan fund by firstname.lastname@example.org. The fund is set to be approved by the county council’s cabinet at its meeting next Wednesday March 17.