Last week the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps MP, announced that there would be direct financial support for some of the key strategic transport routes which supply the United Kingdom. This will include both Eurotunnel at Cheriton and the Port of Dover, which together process around 80% of our road freight with the rest of Europe. The coronavirus restrictions have of course limited the demand for goods and services, but it is vital that we keep our trade routes open to support the import of medical supplies and equipment. This financial assistance for the Port and the Tunnel is also good news for the many local jobs that are reliant on them both.
Local businesses are now receiving funds from the support schemes that were created by the government following the commencement of the COVID-19 lockdown. Overall, more than £12 billion has been distributed to local councils for the small business grants scheme. Folkestone and Hythe District Council is administering this locally and has been allocated £28,808,000 to support up to 2,297 business properties. As of last week, 1,551 business properties our area have already received grants totalling more than £18,090,000.
Whilst this support is there to help businesses through the lockdown period, many will also need assistance as they rebuild their customer base when the restrictions are eased. To help with this the Chancellor of the Exchequer has further announced this week that a new ‘Bounce Back Loan Scheme’ will be created to enable small businesses to borrow up to £50,000 and access the cash within days. They are easy to apply for using a two-page self-certification form online. The Government will provide a 100 per cent guarantee for the loan to lenders and the loan terms mean that no capital or interest repayments will be due for one year. Instead, the Government will pay the interest for the first 12 months. This scheme will offer additional protection to small firms, helping them get the finance they need so they can keep operating, protect jobs and incomes, and get through this crisis. The Bounce Back Loans Scheme will be launched on Monday 4 May 2020 at 9am and will run alongside the existing Coronavirus Business Loans Interruption Scheme (CBILS) managed by the British Business Bank.
For me, like many other people working during the lockdown period, face to face meetings have been replaced by internet-based video conferencing on services like Zoom, a technology that now is even part of life in the House of Commons. I was also pleased though to be able to use this to join a meeting with the team from Romney Tweed to review designs and presentations submitted as part of their student competition. Entrants from the Marsh Academy and Sandwich Technology School had been set the challenge of creating designs for new tweed fabrics inspired by the colours of the landscape of Romney Marsh, and the area around Royal St George’s golf course at Sandwich. The results made for an impressive presentation, and the winner will see their design woven into a new fabric by Romney Tweed. I would like to send my congratulations to everyone involved with this project.