Aberdeenshire Council pays out £56 million in Covid-19 financial support to north-east businesses
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Aberdeenshire Council has supported north-east businesses with financial aid totalling £56 million since the Covid19 pandemic struck.
Through a range of Scottish Government-funded schemes and its own bespoke grants, the council’s Economic Development and Protective Services have provided crucial financial support to thousands of businesses across the region.
To date, a total of 3859 small businesses, firms in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors and tenant occupiers have received the vast majority of the funding at just over £43 million.
The Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund provided grants totalling £380,000 to 190 firms, while the Business Hardship Fund paid out £360,160 to 229 businesses.
The Strategic Framework Business Fund which has already paid out more than £3.8 million remains open to support local eligible businesses mainly in the sectors of hospitality and non-essential retail.
The figures are featured in the council’s Response For Business document which provides a snapshot of the level of support provided to firms during the Covid emergency through funding, ongoing town centre regeneration initiatives, employability advice and retail support schemes.
Aberdeenshire's Phoenix Fund which launched back in May has since offered £190,000 to 25 business associations and groups to support £340,000 worth of projects which will help town centres bounce back from the economic impact of Covid-19.
Since it was launched in July, more than £288,000 has been awarded to 47 businesses through the Business Resilience and Sustainability Scheme (BRASS) which is enabling viable businesses to invest in diversification proposals for new products or markets.
In terms of employability, Aberdeenshire Council has welcomed 327 clients onto the Back to Work programme, supported 91 clients into education training and self/employment packages and registered 65 onto Kickstart placements.
Business Gateway teams provided more than 100 businesses with three-days’ digital marketing support and handled 3000 business enquiries within the first six months of the pandemic.
Emergency HR and finance expertise also delivered vital support for struggling businesses, while 140 digital key skills workshops were delivered.
Despite the impact of Covid-19, the council’s own regeneration and town centre work has continued throughout 2020, focusing on reducing the impact of the pandemic on businesses and livelihoods in our towns.
Among the highlights this year were a £2.5 million award from the Regeneration Capital Grant Scheme (RCGF) on behalf of Huntly Development Trust to develop No. 30 The Square, Huntly into a multi-use community venue.
Eight Aberdeenshire Town Centre community projects were also awarded grants totalling £1.18 million from the 2020 Scottish Government Town Centre funds including the Victoria and Albert Halls in Ballater and Victoria Gardens in Peterhead.
The council supported more than £100,000 of funding drawn into Inverurie and Peterhead BIDS around town centre resilience and was also successful in an £80,000 bid to Scotland’s’ Towns Partnership for town centre resilience work.
In terms of European Social Fund (ESF) grants, successful applications were made for the
Aberdeenshire Employability Pipeline (£806,707) to fund additional key workers and a wage subsidy scheme for employers taking on an employability client.
Inclusive Aberdeenshire also received £639,837 to enhance the council’s Information and Advice Service, providing money management and debt advice to households in poverty, workless households and single-adult households with dependent children by employing an additional seven key workers located in community settings with partner organisations.
Meanwhile, since March, the Fraserburgh Enterprise Hub has had 93 new client interactions and supported 36 individuals with pre-start enquiries and 21 new business starts.
Councillor Peter Argyle, chair of the council’s infrastructure services committee, said: “Without question, this has been the most challenging year imaginable for our business community and it is hard to imagine just how hard it has been for them.
"These funds have been a vital source of financial support for North-east businesses, many of which continue to face massive challenges on a day-to-day basis.”
Vice-chair councillor John Cox added: “Through these funds, Aberdeenshire Council has managed to provide crucial financial support and through employability and bespoke funding packages it has provided guidance, training and cash support for individuals, businesses and town centres to help them overcome the challenges presented by Covid.”
Belinda Miller, Head of Economic Development and Protective Services, said: “It is also important that we recognise and commend the monumental effort of our economic development staff and a host of council services who have assisted in the processing and rapid turnover of thousands of funding applications to support our business community.”