£10m for SMEs hit by floods

17th February 2014

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Emma Corden

Government announces extra £10 million to support small businesses in England affected by the recent floods, as big firms offer free services

A new scheme targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) affected by recent flooding will enable firms to claim thousands of pounds in hardship funds to cover the cost of repairing sites, as well as “exceptional costs” to enable them to continue trading.

The £10 million of funds will be managed by local authorities in England and will be made available to companies that have been impacted by the floods – by customers or suppliers being unable to reach premises – as well as those whose premises have been flooded.

Announcing the additional funding today (17 February), David Cameron said the scheme would help businesses hit by the flooding to “get back on their feet”, while business secretary Vince Cable urged SMEs to take advantage of the support.

“It is vital that small businesses affected by the flooding get assistance as quickly as possible,” said Cable. “We will inform local authorities of their allocations from the business support scheme on Thursday [20 February] to assist businesses with clean-up costs or help them to continue trading. I encourage all businesses affected by flooding to get in touch with their local authority.”

The decision on how much financial support will be offered to individual companies will be made by local councils, although guidance from the business department highlights that in equivalent schemes claims have averaged at £2,500 per business.

The £10 million of support is in addition to the £5,000 “repair and renew” grants for businesses and homeowners that were announced by the prime minister last week.

The government has also confirmed that businesses affected by flooding will be eligible for three months’ relief from business rates and that HMRC will be providing firms with extra time to file their company accounts if they are unable to access their records.

Meanwhile, large private companies, including Vodafone and Citrix, are offering free services and support to SMEs affected by the floods through an initiative coordinated by business network Enterprise Nation.

Vodafone is donating 1,000 dongles to enable companies that have lost their broadband connection to access the internet via its mobile network, while Citrix is offering companies free access to its online meeting software for three months, to enable firms to host virtual meetings.

Other companies offering support include Moneypenny, which is making its call pick-up service available for free, and EDF Energy, which will consider flexible bill payments.

The offers of support came as the independent committee on climate change (CCC) warned that flooding in the UK is likely to increase in future, and that cuts to Defra funding will leave a £500 million shortfall in the budget needed to protect homes and businesses.

“Spending during the next parliament will start £180 million per year below the long-term need, and is set to finish it considerably further behind. If we are to make up for the shortfall external contributions from scheme partners will need to increase significantly and continue to rise. But the amount that can be leveraged will be constrained by the amount the government itself spends,” states the CCC on its website.

“As well as limiting investment in new assets, the current spending deficit will have implications for the maintenance of existing flood defences and the Environment Agency’s ability to respond to future flood emergencies.”

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