More than £40 million in grants channelled by St Albans council to businesses across the district will help keep our high streets vibrant and the local economy to bounce back more quickly, according to Mandy McNeil, Lib Dem councillor and portfolio holder for business, culture and tourism.
Mandy is urging businesses to apply to St Albans council for the latest non-repayable restart grants to help them re-open their doors after lockdown, including those in the non-essential retail, hospitality, accommodation, leisure and personal care sectors.
Shops can claim up to £6,000 depending on their rateable value, while businesses from other sectors such as pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and beauticians can draw up to £18,000.1
“We’ve received a number of emails and other positive feedback from local small businesses thanking our hard-working business grants team, with many saying the grants have been a lifeline and the reason they’ll survive going forward,” said Mandy McNeil (pictured left).
“We are really pleased that the beauty sector, including hairdressers, are eligible for the latest £18,000 restart grant, together with hospitality. The beauty industry has been hard-hit, with little means of diversification during lockdown, and, like our hospitality businesses, have had to invest heavily in PPE for reopening, are operating at reduced capacity and have had to buy in stock and supplies, as well as continue to pay rent.”
Exempt from government support
In recent months St Albans council has channelled £12.9 million in grants to more than 2,000 local businesses and groups, on top of the £27.3 million delivered last year to 1,800 companies and organisations, says Mandy.
This year over £3.5 million in discretionary grants has been paid to more than 500 businesses, including small company directors, who were part of a group known on social media as #excluded, meaning they were exempt from any government support.
“We’ve also supported our market traders, taxi drivers and independent retail and hospitality businesses, including our community pubs, who all play a critical role in our visitor economy. In so doing we took a different approach to Welwyn Hatfield, Dacorum, Watford, Luton and some other councils2.
Significant contributor to local employment
“Domestic and, eventually, international visitors will be key to our local economic recovery, so one of our priorities has been to support the retail and hospitality sector, which together bring in more than 65% of the circa £150 million in direct annual tourism spend in our district and are a significant contributor to local employment, with our visitor economy supporting more than 3,500 local and nearby resident jobs3.
“It’s been great to see our businesses re-open and to see new businesses currently moving in to our city centre. We believe the Liberal Democrat-led strategy on St Albans council will help keep our district’s high streets vibrant and our local economy to bounce back more quickly.”
WHAT ST ALBANS PUBLICANS ARE SAYING:
Christo Tofali, owner of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks
“Pubs needed forward-thinking outside the box. Never in nine years have I seen such an active team of councillors working through our challenges and delivering solutions with us.
“This change happened before Covid, and their support for small businesses, including our hard-hit hospitality sector, meant the discretionary grants have been a lifeline to many pubs and other businesses in our high street.
“Our customers need an economy to come back to and the Lib Dem’s have acted with our challenges in mind and have made all the difference to our pubs.”
Mark Powell, co-landlord of The Mermaid
“We got nothing from Windsor for our pub there, but St Albans council really came through for us. Many thanks.”
David Worcester, landlord of The Lower Red Lion
“The discretionary grant top-up, together with the other grants, has really helped keep the business going during lockdown.”
1 Grants are available for businesses who pay business rates and who offer services on their premises. They can apply at: http://www.stalbans.gov.uk/business-and-licensing
2 Welwyn Hatfield, Dacorum, Watford, Luton and other Hertfordshire local authorities are not paying the Additional Restrictions Grant to businesses that qualified for any of the Local Restrictions Support Grants.