Businesses commend council for Covid-19 support

Businesses being supported by government grants during the Covid-19 crisis have praised Mansfield District Council for the help they have received during this difficult time.

The council has (of 16 April 2020) paid 893 grants totalling £10.2m.

But there are still more than 400 small businesses that have not yet applied for the £10,000 grant for all businesses that receive Small Business Rate Relief. They can apply online via our coronavirus business support page and are advised to complete the form as accurately as possible to avoid any unnecessary delays.

Dawn Edwards, Head of Finance at the council, said: "We would urge those businesses to apply. We cannot just pay this money to businesses in receipt of rate relief because we don’t have their bank account details so they have to fill in the form first. We will, next week, look at other ways we can target those who haven’t yet applied. 

"Our team has been working hard to process grant applications as quickly as possible and supported this by continuing to work over the recent bank holiday weekend.

"Processing each application does take time. We have to check each application carefully to ensure they are eligible and to weed out any potentially fraudulent claims. Unfortunately there have been a handful we have had to reject for this reason."

Claimants should receive an automated email once their application is received and when they claim is paid. Businesses with queries can call 01623 463463 or email businessrates@mansfield.gov.uk

Case studies 

Among those businesses which have received a £25,000 grant are Ciao Bella Restaurant and Lounge, a popular and thriving Italian restaurant and bar in Mansfield. The restaurant was opened by owner Mr Tam Abouelela in 2015 and the Lounge in 2018. It employs 20+ staff who, in the main, live locally.  

Tam said: "We closed down the business as soon as the risks became clear. My main concern was to protect our valued customers and staff and to ensure, wherever possible, they were kept safe and well.

"Closure obviously had a huge financial impact on the business and the biggest challenges were paying the bills and ensuring that my staff continued to be paid. 

"My staff are very loyal to the business and I wanted to reciprocate this loyalty by helping them as much as possible in the circumstances. 

"The cash grant provided by the council which has just been received will be helpful and the council has been helpful during this difficult time. Communication on the support available has been excellent. 

"I am hopeful that the government will continue to support small businesses through this unprecedented period to ensure they can remain in business for the future    

"I hope that as the Covid-19 pandemic starts to be controlled, that we are able to get back to normality, providing a first class service to our customers. Ciao Bella is ready to reopen as soon as we are able and looks forward to welcoming back our customers.  

Tam's message to other businesses at the time: "Keep positive in the circumstances and be business-ready to reopen as soon as the lockdown comes to an end." 

Case study

Eco Personnel (UK) Ltd is a recruitment and selection agency based in Mansfield. It employs six people internally and also has a high volume of external associates across a broad spectrum of industry/work sectors. The business was established in 2008, providing services to many organisations locally and throughout the East Midlands.

Owner Carl Pitt said: "In line with government advice, following the coronavirus lockdown, our operational centre was forced to close.

"Many challenges have emerged, not least how to continue to serve clients who have remained operational, while maintaining contact with those currently in lockdown. 

"Our income streams have reduced dramatically with current revenue down by an estimated 85 per cent and we have worked hard to ensure, where possible, some of our workers are entered into the government furlough scheme which will allow them to get 80 per cent of their usual salary. 

"The £10,000 Small Business Grant (SBRR) was instrumental in allowing Eco to continue providing the levels of support required to all those connected to the business and affected by the Covid-19 emergency. The government announcement, relating to SBRR grants, was supported seamlessly at local level by Mansfield District Council.

"Throughout the application process, from the initial web-link application to receipt of funds I can only commend the actions of those working at the council so diligently.

"The grant provided a degree of security and helped finance technological changes that are now in place. 

"At short notice, we put in IT and telecommunications systems which allowed some of our team to work from work from home. This has enabled us to continue to support both our clients and those employed directly and indirectly by the business. With the assistance of the SBRR grant, we hope to be back in the office before too much longer.

"At this time people, understandably, have many fears and concerns for the immediate future.  Organisations, such as Eco Personnel, have been required to adapt to a new way of working whilst offering as much support and help to those who find themselves in vulnerable circumstances.

"Of course, many unknowns remain. Our sincere hope is that the coronvirus pandemic is short lived and, for the future of mankind, a vaccine is established. The reality is that may be some time away. It is how we respond in the near future that may yet define how we begin to work again, while at the same time preserving life.

"It is difficult to forecast a future time where things appear ‘as was’ but we must continue to work together in a manner that allows a degree of normality.

"I am aware of many organisations who currently find themselves in distressed circumstances through no fault of their own. I truly hope that the future landscape provides for greater compassion and collaboration."

Case study

Quarry Fish Bar is a busy fish and chip shop in Mansfield which has been managed by Paul Kirkwood for the past two years. It employs three people.

Paul said: "We made the decision to close the shop the day after the lockdown was announced to ensure the safety of our staff and customers. Our suppliers also closed which contributed to this decision.

"We are considering opening up again in within the next few weeks, obviously paying close attention to the social distancing measures for both staff and our customers.

"We were very concerned about how the shop would meet its financial obligations which don’t go away when the shop is shut -  rent, electricity, gas, staff wages etc.

"It is great that through the furlough scheme we can claim 80 per cent of staff wages back, but we need to find the money to pay them beforehand.

"The £25,000 grant has definitely taken the pressure off us and will enable us to pick up where we left off when the lockdown ends. We hope to open the shop within the next few weeks. 

"The online form was simple to complete and the money was in our bank within three weeks of completion.

"We have spent a long time building up our customer base and are now a busy chip shop with high standards and excellent reviews. We hope that the business will return to the way it was prior to the coronavirus outbreak. We worked hard to build the business up."

Paul's message to other businesses: "Contact the council to see if you are eligible. Don’t assume that you will be contacted."

Published: April 17th 2020