Column by the leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Toby Savage.

From what local small businesses are telling us, our support is making a real difference during these tough times. Whether with our ‘Help Us Thrive: Shop South Glos’ high streets campaign or through Discretionary Business Support grants and rates relief, we’ve made supporting small local businesses during the pandemic a top priority. I’ve found it heart-warming recently to read the many thank-you letters and emails we’ve received, but the work for all of us continues.

We have paid out nearly £40 million in grants to retailers; to hospitality and leisure businesses; as well as including targeted help for some of our smallest businesses through the discretionary grant scheme.

The grants have helped make a real difference to many local firms including businesses in the hospitality, engineering and financial services sectors; childcare providers; and suppliers of materials and professional services to a range of larger companies in the landscaping, construction and aviation industries, for example.

But we know that conditions continue to be tough. On Monday, the Government announced that no more than six people are allowed to meet socially. We are still focussed on doing our part to tackle a nationwide rise in Covid-19 cases and we will continue to support as many small businesses as possible to help them bounce back.

We’re also supporting community, voluntary or social enterprise groups in need of financial support for projects and services that benefit residents across South Gloucestershire through our Area Wide Grants program. More than £50,000 is available, to a maximum of £3,000 in funding for community projects, services, events or activities that will benefit residents.

We are particularly keen to see applications for funding to support projects that reduce isolation and exclusion and activities that promote health and mental well-being for example. We have a thriving community and voluntary sector in South Gloucestershire, with some wonderful groups working at the very local level for the benefit of neighbours and those in need of a hand up. Time and time and again in recent months we have shown how much we can achieve when we work together to support everyone in need and I hope that this latest round of funding can help more local groups and projects groups of local people.

More information on the scheme is available on our website