LEP Column: Bolt from the blue but help is on hand for flooded firms

Under water: The Local Enterprise Partnership is doing everything it can to assist businesses hit by the floods, from advice to where to claim for grants. 'Picture: Giles Rocholl
Under water: The Local Enterprise Partnership is doing everything it can to assist businesses hit by the floods, from advice to where to claim for grants. 'Picture: Giles Rocholl
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Disastrous events like the current floods highlight the challenges facing people running businesses.

I know from personal experience that a heightened capacity for risk is integral to the psychology of entrepreneurs.

However, typically risks relate to future trends in the market: something that feels manageable and that can be forecast with some confidence.

Floods feel like something else. Quite literally, a bolt from the blue.

This is why grants and other financial support is being made available to help businesses get back on their feet.

Flooded businesses can claim up to £2,500 in grant right away. Details are provided in the boxed text accompanying this article.

The grant funds are provided by government and routed through local councils.

The role of the Local Enterprise Partnership is to provide a connection between businesses and the public sec- tor.

We are doing everything we can to help make it simple for businesses, including sending our team door to door in Tadcaster speaking to flooded businesses to make sure they are aware of the help and advice available to them.

This financial support is only available to businesses that have been flooded.

But we know that the effects were felt far beyond the high water mark.

Many businesses in York were dismayed at the authorities message that York was ‘closed for business’ when they, in fact, were very much open.

I am not challenging that message.

It needed to be done, but those impacted are left in a grey area: flood affected, but not actually flooded.

The situation is similar in Tadcaster, where the collapse of the bridge is having a significant effect: premises were flooded and passing traffic has halted.

I visited businesses there to offer our help and hear how they are coping.

Just like York’s business owners they are keen to get the message out that they are open for business, and that offers of food parcels, whilst appreciated, are certainly not necessary.

Images of the bridge collapsing have given the impression of a town under water.

In reality it’s a town with an amazing community spirit, rolling it’s sleeves up and getting on with the clean-up.

Some great stories emerged too, including the owner of Calcaria Carpets who, as the waters were rising, borrowed a lorry from a local hauliers to save his stock.

He then did the rounds of the pubs gathering volunteer labour. He saved his stock and was back open by the weekend.

Having said that flooding seems like a bolt from the blue, we do need to acknowledge that ‘once in a lifetime’ floods are increasingly common.

There has been much discussion about how this is mitigated through flood protection.

We have been able to help with this using our economic infrastructure funding which, for example, we invested in the flood protection that saved much of Skipton.

But, with the weather forecast promising more in the way of deluges in the next few weeks, there are also things that people and businesses can do now to help now.

Consumers make a huge impact through their buying power. I’d urge people to support local and independent business- es.

Our region has more locally owned small and micro businesses than most, many clustered round market towns, settlements which are often located on historic river crossings.

So the hills and market towns, the very things we love about our area, make us vulnerable.

The community spirit we have seen in the floods can play a real part in future: by choosing to buy from local businesses, people can provide a financial buffer against disastrous future events.

This is vital for independent businesses, who lack the scale and financial reserves of the major chains.

So next time you need something, make a conscious choice about where you buy it.

Business owners can also mitigate the risks.

It is well worth checking your flood risk level, as surface water floods can be unexpected.

If there is any risk at all, then a plan needs to be made.

This needs to look at keeping people safe above all else. Then at premises, facilities, stock and cashflow.

There is a compendium of practical guidance on the LEP’s business advice website www.howsbusiness.org

Help for flooded businesses

Businesses that have been flooded are eligible for a £2500 grant to help cover clean-up costs and get back on their feet as quickly as possible. Business owners, including those in North Yorkshire, should email business@makeityork.com for an application form.

Local Councils will also be offering 3 months Business Rate relief for flooded businesses. Across York and North Yorkshire it varies whether this will be automatically provided or offered via application. Contact your local council if unsure.

There may be other support available in the near future. This, plus advice and guidance, will be available via www.howbusiness.org