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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2020 8:19 pm 
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Hairdressers and taxi drivers to be given PPE by council

Hairdressers and taxi drivers will be among the small firms in Burton and Uttoxeter that will receive emergency PPE packs. It comes as £90,000 is spent on the equipment to help support smaller firms that are reopening but cannot maintain social distancing due to constraints.

Staffordshire County Council is now putting together around 2,000 packs, which contain gloves and masks, for businesses such as hairdressers and taxi drivers who come into close contact with members of the public. It will go to firms that have no more than nine employees.

More than a million pieces of PPE has already been supplied to frontline health and care services in recent weeks by the authority - and its bill for protective kit is expected to rise to more than £3 million.

Mark Winnington, the council's cabinet member for economic growth, told the councillors about the latest scheme at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, June 17. He said: "As businesses are starting to open up we realised one of the things that particularly microbusinesses are concerned about is PPE, what they should have, how they should go about following the guidelines as a business.

"We have made a commitment that will cost £90,000 to put packs together.

"We're looking towards 2,000 packs of 30 face masks, 25 pairs of gloves, signposting advice and also where this PPE can be bought in the future. "That will be sent out to businesses such as hairdressers, physios, hospitality, electricians and taxi drivers – any of those small businesses that have got to have some fairly close contact with the public."

The announcement came as ruling cabinet members considered a strategy to help the county's economy recover and grow in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Support is being offered to companies facing redundancy decisions – as well as aspiring entrepreneurs who may be considering turning a business idea into reality.

Councillor Winnington said: "It's felt like a tsunami – not just for ourselves as a county council but all our residents and businesses. "We need to keep ahead of that wave to make sure we do what we can – and try and guess to a degree where we need to input. "I think we have got it right so far.

"We're looking to put something in place for new start-ups. In 2008, during the last recession, the one thing we as a county picked up was new business. "In the changing world we are in now we know there will be opportunities for new business and people who have decided to swap careers, so we have allocated £360,000 to try and push this agenda forwards.

"We're in the process of hiring two advisors who will be sifting through applicants and we expect some virtual – and hopefully in the future face to face – practical advice to get new businesses started. "As a result we are expecting something in the region of 200 new businesses which are solid starting trading each year for the next three years. That's our target – hopefully we will do better than that."

The support for businesses was welcomed by fellow cabinet members.

Councillor Philip White, cabinet member for learning and employability, said: "Times of challenge are when we need to put our arm around our businesses to help them, to keep people in jobs and also look to the future – and also to support those talented people who have a good idea and want to turn that good idea into a business.

"I'm particularly pleased that one of the first projects we're rolling out is our business start-up support scheme. "I set up my own small business in Staffordshire a number of years ago and there wasn't an enormous amount of help around at the time. Working it out for yourself means you tend to make some costly mistakes.

"This scheme is particularly important that we harness some of those talented people who will have the skills to develop their ideas but may not have the business skills. "I hope we go way beyond 200 businesses – I would be delighted to come back here and ask for more money to do more of it in the future."

Councillor White also highlighted the redundancy and recruitment triage service, which has been developed by the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SSLEP) and is being delivered by the National Careers Service.

"That's a really effective way to make sure the people affected get themselves into another job quickly," he said. "I know that triage service has helped businesses to avoid redundancies already by working with them to help them understand what they can do to ensure that's not necessary."

Council leader Philip Atkins said: "Kickstarting our economy, supporting employers and inspiring new enterprise will be a cornerstone of our recovery activity.

"There's no doubt that coronavirus has had unprecedented effect on the UK economy and here in Staffordshire, and we anticipate tough times ahead for businesses. "But we are still ambitious for Staffordshire's growth, recovery and renewal.

"The role of the county council is central to supporting everyone during these changing times, and indeed the recovery and renewal of our economy is already under way.

"As well as continuing to invest in the conditions all businesses needs to thrive, the current situation has also presented us with many opportunities to further develop the Staffordshire economy by supporting the creation of those clean, digital, highly productive businesses that will provide the jobs of the future.

"Our ambitious five-year Economic Recovery and Renewal Strategy is a roadmap to regrowth and a renewed economic landscape and includes our approach to supporting new businesses to become established, robust and thrive."

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