£1.3 million rescue package could be ‘too little, too late’ for businesses

A £1.3million rescue package could be “too little too late”, say desperate businesses as it’s revealed almost half of local firms expect to make redundancies this autumn.

The cash is being dished out by Renfrewshire Council after 40 per cent of businesses in the region said they are likely to let people go in the next three months.

Distributed as grants and interest-free loans, the fund is designed to save livelihoods as the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic continues.

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It comes as unemployment in Renfrewshire hits 7,545.

Up from 4,015 in March, the jobless total is 88 per cent higher than before the crisis hit.

Renfrewshire Council says it is doing all it can ensure businesses can reopen and are equipped to run their premises with social distancing.

The rescue package includes £500k for interest-free business restart loans of up to £5,000, as well as £250k for grants of up to £2,500 to help businesses adapt their premises to allow for physical distancing.

But with the cash not available until August, Paisley businesses say it may not be enough to save local firms.

Alan Robertson runs the Club Bar in Paisley and also owns Colliers in Johnstone, said: “We’ve spent an absolute fortune on hand sanitiser and signs and everything.

“The problem is we’ve got a lot of the same overheads but don’t have the same earnings.

“We do karaoke in Colliers on a Friday and Saturday night and that was about 50 per cent of our earnings but we can’t do that any more.

“It’s very tough times.”

He added: “All money is welcome, but this money from the council might be too little, too late, we just don’t know yet.

“A lot of the pubs just won’t survive this.”

The fund will also include £400k to help sustain businesses and plan for growth in the medium term and £150k will fund expert advice to businesses in crisis and self-employed people.

The proposals, created in response to feedback from a business survey, are expected to be rubber stamped by councillors at a meeting of the Emergencies Board today.

But Neil Bibby, MSP for the West of Scotland, said it was not enough to stop Renfrewshire businesses from going under.

He told the Express: “This funding is obviously welcome but what we really need in Renfrewshire and across the country is government intervention that matches the scale of the crisis.

“Both UK and Scottish governments should be co-operating to deliver sector-specific support packages to industries, like aerospace and aviation, where workers in good jobs are being made redundant right now and they should be pulling together a workable plan to get the economy moving again.

“Renfrewshire ranks among the hardest hit in terms of the Covid death rate and we are being hit hard by the economic fall-out of the crisis too.

“That’s why I’m calling for additional resources to come to the hardest hit areas and I hope Renfrewshire Council will be backing me in trying to bring more funding to the area.”

The £1.3m package has been developed by Renfrewshire Council in partnership with Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce who together surveyed 500 local businesses to identify the support needed.

They found that half of all businesses have had most of their workforce on furlough, with almost 27,000 employees in the area on the job retention scheme at one point in time.

They told council chiefs the biggest challenges to reopening were cash flow and physical distancing.

Renfrewshire Council leader Iain Nicolson said the rescue package was designed to offer targeted support following consultation with hundreds of businesses.

He said: “Although there is a very challenging financial outlook for the council too, we have prioritised this investment because we are determined to do all we can to help keep as many local businesses as possible trading and to help keep people in jobs.

“And while we hope this package of support will – if approved – make a difference, we are at the same time calling on all residents to do what they can to help support local businesses.

“Money spent in the local area will support your local community, so please Spend Local if you can.”

The money is coming from within existing council budgets for business support and is expected to be the first stage of a longer-term economic recovery plan being developed by the council through the Renfrewshire Economic Leadership Panel.

It adds to the £26m already given to local businesses through various Scottish Government funds designed to mitigate the effect of coronavirus.

Daily Record – Paisley