Cumbria Crack

New Growth Hub grants to boost recovery of smaller businesses

Suzanne Caldwell

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Cumbria can apply for new grants to help them recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Cumbria Business Growth Hub is administering two schemes, one for tourism businesses and the other open to all sectors.

From today, businesses can apply for grants from £1,000 to £5,000 to cover the cost of buying-in specialist advice to address their immediate needs in response to Covid 19.

They must be able to demonstrate a 40 per cent loss of income, caused by the pandemic, between March and June compared with the same period in 2019.

Suzanne Caldwell, Deputy Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the lead partner in the Growth Hub, said: “This is a great opportunity to help some of the smaller businesses in the county that have been hit hardest under lockdown.

“I’d urge them to act quickly though. There is a finite pot of money and it’s a very much a case of first come, first served.

“I’d also ask businesses that have benefited from previous Growth Hub funding to think carefully before applying because there are many other businesses that haven’t, until now, been able to access Growth Hub funding.”

To start the application process, businesses should email [email protected]

The Growth Hub can assign an adviser to help with the application process.

Suzanne added: “While the maximum grant is £5,000, we expect most to be in the range £1,000 and £3,000.”

Businesses can use the grants to buy in a wide spectrum of specialist advice including HR, accountancy, legal, financial, health and safety, IT/digital and sector-related consultancy.

Visitor economy businesses can also apply for grants to boost productivity through digital tools, such as yield-management software, mentoring, networking or other measures.

And they can get grants to adapt to social distancing, for example new ways to deliver cultural events and festivals, or to buy equipment to help them continue to deliver business activity or diversify in response to Covid-19.

Businesses are required to secure three quotes from potential providers but don’t have to choose the cheapest.

Unlike the coronavirus small business and retail/hospitality/leisure grants, which were taxable, the new grants are not treated as income for tax purposes.

Recent start-ups, which may not have trading figures from last year to show they suffered a 40 per cent loss of income, will be able to compare against forecast income instead. The same applies to businesses on high-growth trajectories.

The tourism grants come from the £10m Kick-starting Tourism package announced last month. Ministers later announced a further £20m to help SMEs in other sectors. The money is drawn from the European Regional Development Fund.