Over £85 million worth of financial support has so far been distributed by Portsmouth City Council to local businesses to help them tackle the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. The council has also launched a series of innovative schemes and campaigns in recent months aimed at supporting businesses and encouraging customers to safely return to the high street.
Over £39 million in grant money has been given out to local businesses via the national Small Business Grant Fund, the Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Fund and the Covid-19 Discretionary Business Grant Fund. The council has also distributed £46 million in new business rates relief providing support to over 1650 business properties. In addition, £38,000 of council funds have been distributed via the Crowdfund Portsmouth Pay It Forward scheme which has helped 16 micro businesses in the city to access a further £300,000 from the crowd and other funds.
The council has also deferred in excess of £1.5 million of rent payments from Portsmouth-based companies to help them survive the crisis and safeguard their cash flow.
The council’s dedicated Coronavirus Business Support Helpline, which has operated every working day from 7.00am to 7.00pm since the pandemic began, has to date, taken more than 4000 calls, and helped more than 1700 businesses. The Economic Growth team has been able to help businesses find financial support, understand government programmes as well as offer advice on coronavirus legislation and safety measures.
Cllr Steve Pitt, the council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Economic Development and Deputy Leader, said: “Since the pandemic began, one of our top priorities has been supporting local businesses, whether through access to funding, business rates relief, or providing information and advice. As we all learn to live with the challenges created by Covid-19, we want to make sure that we keep looking at inventive ways to help businesses comply with safety measures and give their customers confidence. That’s why schemes like the temporary closure of part of Palmerston Road and the new apps we’re developing with Shaping Portsmouth are also a vital part of our business support programme.”
To help encourage residents back to high-street shops, businesses, cafes and restaurants the council has implemented some temporary changes to public spaces, from smaller changes like using individual parking spaces to allow room for queuing and passing, to larger initiatives like the temporary closure of the southern end of Palmerston Road so businesses can have additional tables and chairs outside.
The council has also commissioned Shaping Portsmouth to develop two new apps for shops, restaurants and pubs in the city to encourage their customers to return safely. The Contactless Menu app enables customers at cafes, bars and restaurants to order and pay through the app and easily log their details as part of the test and trace system. The Local My Stores app brings local high street shops to customers’ phones so they can shop, pay, click and collect, or request a delivery. Shops from Fratton, North End, Albert Road and Southsea shopping areas have been invited to take part in the pilot scheme.
Businesses looking for support, information and advice can visit Portsmouth City Council’s business support webpages www.portsmouth.gov.uk/businesssupport or call the dedicated phone line on 02392 841 641 (Monday – Friday, 7am – 7pm). They can also subscribe to a weekly news bulletin for Portsmouth’s business community here.