HELP for businesses and traders in the current economic downturn is an ongoing priority for Cheshire West and Chester Council, deputy leader Cllr Les Ford (Con) has confirmed.
Cllr Ford was replying to a question from Cllr Paul Dolan (Lab) at a meeting of the full council.
Commenting on steps being taken by the government, Cllr Dolan asked if the council had assessed the proportion of businesses and traders who were facing serious cash flow problems, planning to reduce staff or close down or who were unable to access bank loans.
Cllr Dolan asked what measures or support the council could offer or enable to bring relief to local businesses and traders.
Cllr Ford said there was no firm information on the number of local businesses and traders who were being significantly affected by the economic situation but added:Helping our local business community is an ongoing priority for the council.
During this difficult time we have been placing increased emphasis on providing support and assistance.
Action was being taken to ensure that small businesses claimed the national rate relief they were entitled to and the council was also taking a more lenient approach than it had in the past to the payment of business rates.
These were required to be paid in 10 monthly instalments however in view of the current economic climate we are routinely extending this to 12 instalments where businesses are struggling in order to help our business community during this difficult time.
Where further action was unavoidable to protect the councils interests, the authority was extending repayments into the next financial year if that would help to maintain the business.
Economic development specialists were engaging with existing businesses and were looking to provide ongoing support and advice.
This included new initiatives with a small business grant scheme for businesses starting up or in the first three months of trading, one to one business advice for those facing difficulties, drop ins with business advisers for businesses wishing to start up and a new Shop Doctor initiative aimed at retailers in key centres to support increased footfall and profitability.
The council was also working with the University of Chester to provide a one-stop shop for business advice and support through European funding and offered a redundancy support team which could help companies making or considering redundancies through retraining, skills development and benefits advice.
It has recession support advice on its website.