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New grant schemes will support jobs and rural businesses to aid pandemic recovery

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Red Rose Lancashire

Lancashire County Council has announced a major package of support for businesses to take on young apprentices, and help for rural businesses, as part of its bumper £12.8m fund to help the local economy bounce back from the impacts of the Covid-19 virus.

The council has established the Lancashire Economic Recovery and Growth Fund to kickstart schemes which will create jobs in parts of the economy which have been hardest hit, and accelerate the development of initiatives which will stimulate growth and help to unlock further investment in the wake of the pandemic.

The council’s cabinet gave the green light for the fund in September 2020 and a number of projects have now been approved in principle.

£300,000 has been earmarked to provide £1,500 grants to 200 small-to-medium-sized businesses to support them to take on 16-24 year olds as apprentices. The under-25 age group in Lancashire has been hardest hit by unemployment as a result of the pandemic, and these grants will incentivise employers to recruit and retain an apprentice. Work is underway to launch the programme to ensure that it is in place when the current government apprenticeship grant scheme comes to an end, and keep up the momentum of businesses taking on apprentices.

Similarly, the Covid-19 pandemic is anticipated to disproportionately affect rural communities due to the impact of lockdowns upon the rural economy, especially tourism and hospitality. A £400,000 Lancashire Rural Recovery Fund is being established to help rural businesses adapt and recover. The county council already has a good track record of providing targeted grants to help rural businesses grow, improve productivity, and create jobs. The LRRF will focus on helping rural businesses remain sustainable, pilot new ways of working, and capitalise on other initiatives such as the roll-out of fast broadband networks in rural areas.

County Councillor Michael Green, cabinet member for economic development, environment and planning, said: “The county council has established the Lancashire Economic Recovery and Growth Fund in recognition that we have an important role to play in helping Lancashire bounce back quickly from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Before the virus struck, we were already working with partners across the county on an ambitious plan to secure massive investment to transform our economy and fully realise Lancashire’s potential for the benefit of all our residents, businesses and communities.

“That ambition has not changed, however there now needs to be a focus on supporting those areas of the economy hardest hit by the virus, and progressing projects which have the greatest potential to deliver their full benefits in the medium to long term.

“The Lancashire Economic Recovery and Growth Fund will help to kickstart that process in recognition that there are parts of our economy which we can help immediately, such as the younger workforce most affected by the pandemic which will benefit from the apprenticeships scheme to incentivise businesses to take on and train a young employee.

“Lancashire’s vital tourism and hospitality sector has also been particularly hard-hit and we’re working to establish a new grant scheme to assist their recovery. Our economic development team is very experienced in this area, and they’ll be working closely with rural companies over the coming months to help them access these grants and support them in making the best decisions for the future of their business.”

The £12.8million Lancashire Economic Recovery and Growth Fund has been developed to tackle specific urgent and immediate economic impacts of Covid-19 and stimulate economic growth in urban and rural areas. It will also help unblock longer-term strategic economic development and infrastructure projects by levering further investment from the private sector and other stakeholders including government.

The fund builds on immediate central government support for re-opening the economy and captures the county’s long-term growth aspirations. It will help re-open our towns, attractions, countryside and destinations, support our industries to restart, stimulate business growth and align the workforce to the jobs that will be created.

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