The impact Covid-19 has had on Sheffield’s businesses has been laid bare in a new survey.
Impact on cash flow, big falls in customer demand, meeting fixed costs and managing the implications of social distancing were the main issues raised by 457 who responded to Sheffield Business Response Group’s survey.
The survey, launched in May by the group which includes Sheffield City Council, aimed to identify the support urgently needed by businesses affected by the pandemic.
As a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, 89% of the businesses who responded to the survey said that they had either temporarily reduced trading or ceased trading during this period. However, the survey showed that businesses in Sheffield have been taking the initiative in both utilising the support provided by the Government’s furlough scheme (54%) and 40% have enabled staff to work from home. As well as this, many have taken proactive steps to manage relationships with existing customers and suppliers, or explored opportunities to adapt and diversify.
Written responses from some businesses included confirmation that they had successfully adapted to remote working during the crisis, have used the pandemic as an opportunity to diversify their business and were pleased with the speed in which furlough and business grant payments were made by the Government and the Council.
The full summary of the survey is available here: Business Survey – Covid-19 Impact on business (2)
Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet Member for Business and Investment at Sheffield City Council, said:
“The information gained from this survey is vital to ensure the council and other organisations continue to support our businesses.
“The long term economic impact of Coronavirus will not be known for some time but it is clear thousands of businesses have been affected and the knock on impact on employment could be felt in our city for years to come. The information provided by the survey will help us in future talks with Government about what help is needed in Sheffield.
“To support businesses in the immediate future, A range of new workshops are running throughout June to help businesses address the challenges highlighted by the survey.”
Additional support to businesses during this time has included the distribution of Covid-19 support grants to those eligible for the government’s Small Business Rate Relief as well as businesses in the Retail, Leisure and Hospitality sectors.
The Council has now distributed £89m in grants to 7459 businesses.
The Sheffield Covid 19 Business Support Grant scheme has also allowed the Council the ability to provide grants to small and micro businesses that have missed out on other Covid-19 grant schemes including the business rate grants scheme.
Due to the limited funding providing by Government, the Council has had to reduce the value of grants to be no more than £10,000. The grant scheme worth £5.5 million has been open for a two week period and will reopen again once all of the current grant applications have been processed, with the ability to revisit the criteria to include more business types in a second round.
To allow businesses time to adjust to the challenges they face due to Covid-19, the Council has suspended taking direct debit payments from businesses from April to June. In addition, extra rates relief worth around £118m has been awarded, meaning many businesses will have no rates to pay in 2020/21.
Bills showing these reliefs will be issued in the next few days. For those businesses with a charge to pay and who pay by Direct Debit, payments will commence from 1 July.
Cllr Iqbal added:
“The Council continues to support local businesses. It has been proactive in making payments available as quickly as possible, and anyone who submits eligible applications for a support grant will be paid the grant within a few days. In addition to this, Sheffield City Council continues to work closely with the private sector via the Sheffield Business Recovery Group and other partners to ensure that the Government fully understands the difficulties faced by Sheffield’s business community and that further support measures will be required for some time to come.
“We are now working on the last few hundred of the most complex cases of business support grants, where more information is needed to be able to assess the application.
“We are trying to be as pragmatic as possible to help as many businesses as we can, but as with any official Government scheme involving public money, there are hard and fast rules and eligibility criteria. My heart goes out to people who have been told they are not eligible for relief that would make all the difference to the businesses they have worked so hard to build.
“We do however believe there are still many businesses that may be eligible for a grant and have not yet applied. We have emailed all businesses we think might be eligible and are now writing to those who have not replied.
“I would urge anybody who is uncertain whether they might be eligible for grants or loans, or who has any other query relating to available support for businesses to contact Business Sheffield on 0114 224 5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information for businesses, including grant application forms, is available on the Council website, here.