Updated government Covid-19 advice for businesses

The Chancellor’s package of temporary measures to support businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19 include the following:

  1. A Statutory Sick Pay relief package for SMEs.
  2. A 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England.
  3.  Small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief.
  4. Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.
  5.  The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank.
  6. A new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans.
  7. The HMRC Time To Pay Scheme.

View more details here

Banks Pledge Billions to Help SMEs Impacted by Coronavirus

Private lenders are making funds available to small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including £2 billion from Lloyds Banking Group and £5 billion from NatWest.

Lloyds Banking Group has announced that it has allocated up to £2 billion to ensure the UK’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have access to additional finance to overcome any impact to cash flow in relation to coronavirus.

It is anticipated that a sustained and wide-scale outbreak in the UK will impact businesses and in particular their cash flows, as interruptions to their supply chain or significant employee absence will severely impact their ability to generate sales and result in reduced revenues.

The bank’s Relationship Managers speak to nearly 5,000 small businesses each week and have already reached out to more than 10,000 SMEs to discuss any concerns they already have on the potential impact a sustained COVID-19 outbreak may have on their business.

This additional finance, which has now been confirmed for small business customers with up to £25 million turnover, will include the removal of certain fees and the possibility of payment holidays for the worst affected.

David Oldfield, group director, commercial banking, Lloyds Banking Group, said:

‘As our customers face … uncertainty, we want to provide reassurance to them that, if needed, we are here to help with additional working capital to get them through temporary interruptions to their business and to their cash flow.’

As the impact of the coronavirus outbreak begins to directly impact more businesses, NatWest has also outlined the support it will provide to SMEs across the UK, including a £5 billion Working Capital Support extension to its Growth Funding Package, ongoing support and practical advice for businesses.

NatWest is committed to helping SMEs thrive and achieve their potential in all economic climates. This new funding builds on the targeted support the bank offered to SMEs through flooding and Brexit readiness as they adapt to the rapidly evolving impacts of the coronavirus on the UK economy.

The package will help SMEs across all sectors and where there is the greatest disruption and need. The support includes the following components:

  • An additional £5 billion for working capital support that meets the needs of SMEs.
  • Loan repayment holidays.
  • Temporary emergency loans with no fees.
  • The Bank’s Relationship Managers based in communities across the UK will proactively speak to business customers offering help and support as they form their plans to mitigate the impact of coronavirus.
  • Continued work with the Government, British Business Bank and UK Finance to understand the evolving impacts and appropriately support SMEs.

Alison Rose, CEO of NatWest, commented:

‘The ongoing uncertainty that the UK’s small and medium-sized businesses are experiencing is unprecedented even by recent standards.

‘While many of our customers are yet to feel the direct impacts of coronavirus, I want NatWest to have the right support in place, so we are there to help our SME customers when they need us most.’

Government funding gives village halls a new lease of life

The Times has reported that village halls are enjoying an unexpected resurgence amidst widespread set-backs for shops and other rural services.

Community halls that have been adapted have enjoyed renewed popularity by offering the space for coffee shops, concerts, yoga, outreach post offices, pop-up pubs, cinema evenings alongside traditional activities such as pre-schools and Women’s Institute meetings, life events and community events

The Government introduced a £3 million grant scheme for the refurbishment of village halls April last year and so far 21 halls have received grants, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

In Quatt, a village in Shropshire with a population of 200, the hall has managed to stay relevant by offering a wider range of activities. Stephanie Hinton, hall secretary, said that the building, which dates back to 1908, is used by the model train group as well as for fitness classes including pole dancing.

In a bid to tackle isolation following the closure of the local shop and Post Office, a community group in Oxfordshire has opened a bustling café in their village hall selling homemade food, local produce, wine and refills for soap and shampoo bottles, all raised from donations and staffed by volunteers. The hall now has a space for table tennis, pilates, a film club, a sewing group and the local Women’s Institute.

Full article:

The Times – Pole dancing and pop?up pubs give village halls a new lease of life

New Funding for Entrepreneurs Setting up Rural Firms

Funding is being offered to help entrepreneurs start new businesses in rural areas of the UK.

Forest Holidays has partnered with the Prince’s Countryside Fund to create the new Rural Start-Up Fund, with the aim of supporting new business ventures in rural areas of the UK. The scheme is intended to help entrepreneurs overcome the challenges associated with setting up and working in rural settings.

A total of £5,000 is available in 2020, to be awarded to one winning business or shared between a number of rural start-ups. In addition to financial support, winners will have the opportunity to receive mentoring support from a member of the Forest Holidays team for 12 months.

Entrepreneurs who are embarking on a new business venture in rural areas of the UK will be eligible to apply. Applicants must be able to demonstrate how their business will, in some manner, support rural communities, promote conservation of the countryside or support rural sustainability.

Bruce McKendrick, Chief Executive Officer of Forest Holidays, said:

“Inevitably, one of the biggest barriers to setting up a new business is the initial financial commitment and business support needed.

“Our new start-up grant programme aims to give entrepreneurs and start-up businesses the help required to overcome these initial challenges to grow their business locally.”

The deadline for applications to be submitted is midday on Friday 6 March 2020.

Growth Programme -Workshop to provide guidance and information on submitting an Expression of Interest for RDPE Growth Programme funding

You could be eligible for a Growth Programme grant if your business is carrying out a project to create jobs or bring more money into the rural economy.

Follow the link to a calendar of workshops which give advice and information about submitting an expression of interest for the current round of Growth Programme funding.


This Eventbrite link enables potential applicants to book for workshops run by the RPA. Many LEPs are also running their own local workshops, and we are adding links to these to our own Eventbrite list as and when they are confirmed. You might, of course, hear about such workshops direct from your own LEP contacts.

Local venue – Cambridge – Thursday 5 December 2019, 10:30-14:00 and Thursday 30 January 2020, 10:30-14:00,RPA, c/o Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Eastbrook, Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge, CB2 8DR

Please note that is it not compulsory to attend an EOI workshop. For more information on how to submit an EOI please follow this link RPDE Growth Programme

Potential applicants can also find out about workshops by emailing GPEnquiries@rpa.gov.uk Information about the programme, including theme handbooks, is on .Gov.UK – search “Growth Programme”


New Bishop demonstrates an interest in rural affairs

It was a great pleasure to welcome The Rt Revd Dr Dagmar Winter, The Bishop of Huntingdon to Cambridgeshire ACRE on Friday 11th October 2019. Dagmar has an interest in rural affairs and has served on the Rural Group and the Mission and Public Affairs Committee of the Church of England. In her rural role she has chaired a LEADER funding programme for the Northumberland Uplands.

Bishop Dagmar started her morning at e-space North by meeting Andy Jones, Centre Manager and was introduced to some of the small business owners using the site. It was good to share the success of e-Space as a rural Business Centre that provides shared serviced office space for start-ups, small, growing and established businesses. Built some 20 years ago through EU funding, the Centre has no vacant units and its success has seen higher paid employment brought to Littleport and the surrounding rural area.

The Bishop met Cambridgeshire ACRE staff, including Cambridgeshire Fens LEADER team to learn more about the successful LEADER Programme.

Following refreshments, served by the Lemon Tree Deli, a small business that run the on-site catering and a café/deli in Ely, the Bishop was taken to visit two LEADER Projects.

The first visit was to Cambcol Ltd to meet with the business CEO Jonathan Fitton in the new laboratory and manufacturing facilities in Littleport, near Ely.

This project received a LEADER grant of £173,601 to establish new business premises for Cambcol Ltd a developer and producer of high quality, surgical collagen products. The grant provided funding for office space, a production facility and laboratories to facilitate ground-breaking R&D, manufacture and marketing of surgical collagen and related products created from chicken sources (originating from research at Cambridge University). 36 higher paid jobs are to be created at the facility.

The next project to be visited was the Prickwillow Engine Museum to meet with Paul and Pauline Dunham, trustees, and see and hear of the impact the grant has made on developing the museum as a visitor attraction, meeting place and community asset. Volunteers and trustees demonstrated the engine in operation.

Prickwillow Museum, a registered educational charity, tells the story of the drainage of the Fens, the history of the local area, and those doughty individuals who ran the drainage pumps in remote locations. The Museum showcases some of the region’s finest examples of restored diesel engines. The Museum has been successful in achieving two LEADER grants, the last one being for £27,966. The Museum is solely run by voluntary effort.

Bishop Dagmar expressed her gratitude to the Cambridgeshire ACRE staff for their time and excellent choice of projects to visit, commenting that, ‘I shall follow with interest as things develop further.’

Please take a look at our photos of the day.

CambCol Ltd

Prickwillow Engine Museum

Rural Community Energy Fund

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

The Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) is a £10 million programme which supports rural communities in England to develop renewable energy projects, which provide economic and social benefits to the community.

RCEF provides support to rural communities in 2 stages:

  • stage 1: grants of up to £40,000 for a feasibility study for a renewable energy project
  • stage 2: grants of up to £100,000 for business development and planning of feasible schemes

RCEF is being run by 5 regional Local Energy Hubs. If you would like to register your interest for the scheme, or would like further information, please contact the relevant hub for your area.

Details here