Expanded support for small enterprises and recently announced business investment will help to strengthen Staffordshire’s economic recovery post-pandemic, the county council’s deputy leader said today.
With latest figures showing 4.7 per cent of Staffordshire’s population is claiming out-of-work benefits, keeping businesses operating and attracting major investment is crucial to job protection and creation, Philip White said. The Staffordshire figure has remained at the same rate for the last three months and is lower than both the West Midlands region (7.2 per cent) and nationally (6.4 per cent).
Last week, the county council announced its latest programmes to its comprehensive business support package. Working with Staffordshire’s district and borough councils, three new schemes would see county council investment pooled with additional restrictions grant funding. This is allocated by the government to each district and borough council to support businesses whose operations have been severely impacted by lockdown restrictions.
The schemes are the Staffordshire 500, Apprentices Wage Support programme, which would see up to 500 apprentices created; the Nil Cost Training for Employers Top-up Project – providing support to businesses to upskill employees or train new staff and the Small Business ‘To Thrive’ Financial Support programme. This would offer grants to small businesses between £2,000 and £5,000 to cover expenditure costs essential to their operations.
Two national retailers recently announced they would be building logistics hubs in Staffordshire which will lead to the creation of hundreds of jobs. ASOS will locate its centre at Fradley Park, Lichfield, with up to 2,000 employees while Pets at Home is building a hub at Redhill, Stafford with 1,200 employees on site.
Philip White, who is also Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for economic growth and skills said: “The Staffordshire economy continues to be resilient and our claimant count remains significantly lower than the national and regional averages.
“The quality of our offer to larger companies means Staffordshire has continued to attract investment such as the recent announcements of thousands of new jobs being created in the county by ASOS and Pets at Home.
“We are investing in local businesses too by putting in place significant business support programmes which will provide hundreds of smaller firms with funding, advice and an improved workforce as we work together to overcome the pandemic challenges. Whilst our businesses have remained resilient, we will continue to focus this support where it is needed most.
“The new initiatives announced last week will see us working closely with our district and borough council colleagues to use our resources in the most effective way we can by meeting specific needs. This builds on the package of support already in place, including a range of start-up provision.
“Ensuring we have viable businesses that can continue to operate successfully is critical to job creation and protection and so too is attracting large national companies to invest in our county. Staffordshire remains a great place to do business and we will continue to play our part in supporting enterprises of all sizes to thrive and grow locally.”