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Micro grants’ positive impact inspires support for city festivals

Published Thursday, 17 June 2021

With council-funded micro grants helping 1,114 small businesses to adapt through the pandemic, the council is proposing to invest £100k to support the safe return of business-led events and festivals.

An independent evaluation of the micro grants’ impact shows that, since their introduction in March 2020, 294 businesses were saved from closure and that 635 businesses were helped to diversify or adapt their products and services.

The micro grants totalled £1.14m and supported small, micro and one-person York businesses – including self-employed people – affected by COVID-19 restrictions but not eligible for the existing Government grants. Alongside the grants, they were also given a year’s membership of the Federation of Small Businesses (FBS).

This scheme has helped protect many local jobs and support businesses to become more resilient. The scheme also inspired the Government’s own programme of Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG).

The additional expected ARG funding is set to be partly used to safely reintroduce many of the city’s regular events and festivals. Events before and after Christmas, such as the Food and Drink Festival, Ice Trail, Jorvik Viking Festival and York Design Week usually rely on sponsorship and commercial support, much of which is depleted. To support the delivery of these local business-led events across the city, the Council’s Executive will discuss allocating £100k from the ARG funding later next week.

Cllr Nigel Ayre, Executive Member for Finance and Performance, said:

“The introduction of the micro-grant scheme was a part of our unique approach to economic development in York. This allowed us to provide immediate, critical support in the earliest days of the pandemic to businesses facing financial difficulties because of Covid-19 and needing to adapt to new trading arrangements.

“Our teams worked incredibly hard to make the payments as quickly as possible, because we understood that their rapid receipt would be essential for the diverse and independent micro businesses which York is lucky to have. This work has helped identify the strengths and weaknesses of the grant process to inform future grant schemes, and provides insights on future business support needs including internet and transport connectivity.”

Cllr Andrew Waller, Executive Member for Economy and Strategic Planning, said:

“Throughout the crisis we have worked closely with the business community striving to support our city’s diverse independent and small business community, which makes York so unique. With so many local traders falling through the gaps of government support schemes, our local micro-grant scheme was a key part in our ongoing efforts to support the local economy and retain jobs in the city.

“The proposed investment in business-led events and festivals is another opportunity to work with partners, especially business and traders networks, which has been at the heart of our approach over the past year.

“Whilst this continues to be a challenging time for local businesses, there are signs that give reason for positivity. For example, over the last 12 months, 91 new businesses have opened in York and independent businesses have increased to 68%, compared to 65% last year and 62% three years ago. 709 start-up businesses have been registered in York in the first three quarters of 2020/21, which is extremely encouraging to see. Our work with local small and micro businesses will continue to underpin the next steps in our path to economic recovery.”

Notes:

Of the small and micro businesses which received the council’s micro grant, 30% of them were interviewed to find out about the grants’ impact. Of those interviewed:

  • 35% used the grant to invest in equipment, technology or materials
  • 25% used it to digitalise the business
  • 17% used it for marketing
  • 294 business said they’d been at risk of closing but the grant had helped them avoid that
  • 57% respondents said the business provides the main household income
  • 10% mentioned the positive impact the grants had had on their wellbeing
  • 57% had adapted or diversified their business
  • 42% had put some or all of their business online.