Support for district’s independent retailers

DM171440a.jpg. Chichester council leader Tony Dignum described the funding for businesses as 'very positive news'
DM171440a.jpg. Chichester council leader Tony Dignum described the funding for businesses as 'very positive news'

More than £200,000 to help independent high street retailers to improve their stores and attract new customers is set to be made available by Chichester District Council.

Originally £168,800 was set to be allocated from the pooled business rates fund for shops in Chichester, Petworth, Midhurst and Selsey, but cabinet members have also decided to include East Wittering and provide another £32,000.

Fully-funded bespoke retail training will be offered to independent businesses through workshops focusing on generating ideas to convert footfall into sales.

Following this bespoke rapid improvement sessions will be offered, including in-store training by an independent retail training specialist.

Each business undertaking the training can the apply for a grant to refurbish and improve their shop front up to 75 per cent of total costs and a maximum of £4,000.

Meanwhile the council’s Cabinet also approved a number of other schemes to support businesses on Tuesday January 9.

The Enabling Grant Scheme, which offers small match-funded grants to small and new businesses for capital projects or apprenticeship training is set to be continued with £71,428 from the pooled business rates fund.

Examples of capital projects could include equipment to help fit out a health and beauty salon, an extractor system for a pub kitchen, developing a new website, or providing an IT workstation for a new member of staff.

The fund will also provide an extra £32,000 for the council’s Choose Work programme, which is jointly funded with the Government up to 2020 to deliver placements for residents trying to get back into work.

The extra money will go towards a major jobs and skills event towards the end of 2018 to bring employers and young job seekers together, and will also help establish specialist hubs across the district to enable more people to access support workshops and drop-in sessions.

Currently in West Sussex, under the localised business rates system, any growth in business rates is split between each local authority, West Sussex County Council, and the Government.

The government then also applies a 50 per cent levy on each billing authority’s share, but the pooling arrangement means councils in West Sussex get to keep this money.

It means that the pool area gets to keep about £2.5m per year of business rates that would otherwise have gone to the Government, with the money ring-fenced for investment in projects supporting the local economy.

Tony Dignum, leader of the council, said: “These schemes are being put into place as a result of demand from independent businesses themselves, so we know that this type of support is needed. This is very positive news and will really help support our local economy.

“We were also very keen to ensure that we made further funds available so that independent shops in East Wittering village centre can be included. We want to ensure that independent retailers here can take advantage of this excellent support programme in order to boost what is a distinct and vibrant high street area.

“I am also pleased that the excellent progress of our Choose Work programme will be continuing, with the proposed projects helping to bring employers and potential workers together.

“The funding has only just been announced, so we are now in the early stages of putting these programmes together. We’ll publish more information and details on how to apply once they are ready.”