A lifeline has been handed to Stratforward BID after the county council agreed to set up a loan fund to support it. Earlier this month, Stratford District Council turned down a plea for £137,000 to underwrite the organisation for six months. Stratforward was forced to furlough all its staff apart from director Joe Baconnet.
The timing of Stratforward’s annual levy, from which it derives most of its income, has come at a difficult moment, as it became clear many town centre businesses would be unable to pay in the current circumstances.
However, Warwickshire County Council has now stepped in, setting up a £120,000 loan fund to support BIDs across the county. Each business support organisation will now be able to apply for a loan of up to £40,000.
Joe Baconnet, director of Stratfordward BID, said: “We appreciate the speed with which Warwickshire County Council has made the decision to create the loan fund. As a short-term measure, this will enable us to continue working and supporting businesses whilst preparing for the restart in Stratford-upon-Avon.”
A spokesperson for the council said: “Warwickshire County Council and all of the district and borough councils have been working collaboratively throughout the Covid emergency to ensure that as far as possible we protect our business communities.
“One such example is the Support to Business group that has been established, including representation from every local authority, to help co-ordinate activity.
“It is in these forums that issues such as the progress of payment of business rate grants are reported. To date, Stratford-on-Avon District Council has paid such grants totalling £15.5m to local businesses.
“In relation to Stratfroward, it was not possible for Stratford-on-Avon District Council to provide grant funding when requested at the end of March, however, through collaboration with Warwickshire County Council it was agreed to consider whether they were in a position to provide assistance.
“Following dialogue, a revised proposition was developed that changed the emphasis of the ask and concentrates upon a loan to assist with short-term cashflow issues rather than grant funding.
“Warwickshire County Council have now had a chance to consider this proposition and have approved a scheme from which Stratforward, along with the business improvement districts in Warwickshire, may be able to benefit for a period.”