Hastings council invited to apply for £82k grant to help reopen high street safely

Hastings Borough Council has been invited to apply for a grant of up to £82,026 from the Government’s new national Reopening High Streets Safely Fund to get people back to work and customers back to the shops.

Hastings town centre. SUS-200526-122911001
Hastings town centre. SUS-200526-122911001

The fund, announced on Sunday (May 24), is to help councils in England support the recovery of high streets.

It is focussed on the introduction of safety measures, in line with recent government guidance about adapting public spaces for social distancing, to support businesses to re-open safely.

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The Government has announced more non-essential retailers, such as shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, will be expected to be able to reopen from June 15 with five Government tests to be met first.

This gives them three weeks to prepare.

Businesses will only be able to open from this date once they have completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks.

They must have taken the necessary steps to become Covid-19 secure in line with the current Health and Safety legislation.

The council can make a claim for the grant from Monday (June 1) to cover money it pays out on activities the Government has decided will qualify.

The grant comes with strict conditions about what the funding can and cannot be used for.

For example, it cannot be used to provide direct financial support to businesses to make adaptations to premises, purchase PPE, purchase goods or equipment or offset wages or other operating costs.

It is intended to support a range of practical safety measures including new signs, street markings and barriers, all of which must be temporary.

Cllr Kim Forward, leader of the council, said: “As we enter this new phase of shops re-opening, our priority will be, as it has been throughout this pandemic, the safety of our residents.

“Although we are grateful for any funding we receive to help our town recover from this crisis, especially given our challenging financial position, this money won’t go very far across all of our shopping areas to help support the reopening of our local businesses and high street.

“It is also unfortunate that there are some rather rigid and limiting rules about what the money can and can’t be used for and a lot of bureaucracy and form-filling conditions normally only seen with schemes of millions of pounds.

“We will do all we can to make the money go as far as possible to help make our high street as safe as they can be.

“The first we heard about this scheme was on Sunday, during a bank holiday weekend, so we are working to understand the guidance and consider how best to use this fund.

“It is an example of the additional unplanned work that we are having to undertake while keeping our services running, protecting residents, supporting businesses and taking care of our staff.

“As soon as we know more we will let you know. Our website and social media channels will carry the latest information.”

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