As the New Forest’s visitor season would usually begin, New Forest District Council is continuing to support local businesses affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, with funding, support and information.
The Council recognises that the New Forest has a high proportion of the types of business most greatly impacted by the current necessary trading restrictions. Visitor attractions, accommodation and facilities are closed and residents and visitors must stay at home to slow the spread of the virus.
Most recent figures show the tourism sector in the New Forest had 9,000 employees, or 13.2% of all New Forest employees. Food and drink businesses make up 42% of these, with accommodation providers making up 31%. This is a sector that has been significantly impacted by the lockdown over coronavirus with an extended impact on businesses and associated jobs in their supply chains.
Cllr Michael Harris, Portfolio Holder for Economic Development said
“The impact on our local economy will be more significantly felt as we move into the start of the traditional visitor season. This crisis comes as many seasonal businesses around the visitor economy are moving out of their quieter period to a time when they usually achieve a high proportion of their annual income.
“However, faced with these challenges it is reassuring to witness the resilience of our local business community. We’re seeing many businesses, particularly cafes, restaurants and pubs diversifying their offer to take advantage of the relaxed laws in offering takeaway. Many local food retailers have benefited from demand for local delivery where supermarket slots cannot be booked and manufacturing businesses in the New Forest have adapted their offering to meet government calls for essential items in tackling the pandemic, such as distilleries and factories manufacturing hand sanitiser and companies 3D printing face masks for the NHS.
“Our focus at New Forest District Council is to ensure that our local businesses have been connected with all the government support available to them. We are in touch with local businesses on a daily basis to ensure that they are accessing support packages and resources from our partners at a local, regional and national level, and providing the latest information and guidance to our business communities as the situation changes.”
He added, “I am both proud and amazed at the speed with which our teams have been able to react to the effects of COVID19 on the businesses of the New Forest. Government funds have been properly distributed in just a few days”
Alan Bethune, Chief Financial Officer at NFDC said
“Within 7 days of New Forest District Council receiving the Business Grant funding from Central Government, we had facilitated payments of £24.63M, covering 96% of the businesses who had submitted the necessary information back to the Council to enable payment, making us one of the first local authorities to pay out the grants. We have received positive feedback from businesses at the speed and efficiency with which we have paid these funds, and the easy to use online form.
“I consider this a fantastic response and am extremely thankful to my business rate team who continue to work tirelessly to get these vital payments out to businesses without delay. We continue to keep up this pace having paid out a total of £28.65M as of 14/04 (96.5% of returns), representing payments to 2,337 businesses.”
The Council’s Economic Development team will continue to work with their partners to ensure that local businesses, and their employees, have access to the support they need to withstand the current difficulties.
Information on the support available to businesses locally is at www.newforest.gov.uk/coronavirusbusiness
Residents who are struggling financially can get information and advice at www.newforest.gov.uk/coronavirusmoney