A NEW loans scheme designed to help small businesses start up and existing ones to grow has been launched by Warwickshire County Council.
The council says its Local Communities & Enterprise Fund (LCE) will fill a gap in the loans market at a time when mainstream lending is difficult to access.
The new scheme is part of the council’s £140million Warwickshire Recovery and Investment Fund (WRIF), created to aid the economic recovery of the county following the end of Covid restrictions.
Delivered for the council by Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust (CWRT), the LCE aims to support smaller and early phase businesses, and social enterprises. Its principal focus is micro businesses with fewer than 10 employees and small businesses with fewer than 50 – but applications will be welcome from medium-sized enterprises of up to 250 employees.
The fund is open to all business sectors, but priority will be given to those particularly significant within the Warwickshire economy. These include Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering; Digital Creative and Digital Technologies; Culture, Tourism and Hospitality, and Low Carbon Technologies
Other key sectors which the LCE will support are Retail, Community-based enterprises, Creative Industries, Health and wellbeing and Social Care.
The LCE’s key objective is to enable businesses and social enterprises to start up, become established and grow. The Fund will also support transition to a low carbon economy and climate change adaptation.
Applications from under-represented groups, including female-led businesses, young people, care leavers and from minority communities will be particularly welcomed and given additional weighting when proposals are being assessed.
Warwickshire County Council’s spokeswoman for Economy and Place Coun Kam Kaur said: “We are very excited to launch the Local Communities & Enterprise Fund which is an integral part of our ground-breaking Warwickshire Recovery and Investment Fund.
“Warwickshire has a wonderful breadth of small businesses and they are integral to our county’s economy and communities. The LCE will support those businesses which are seeking to consolidate and grow and also help other entrepreneurs to turn their ideas and skills into new small businesses.
“This is also an excellent example of putting our community powered approach into action, we are stepping forward to support businesses and social enterprises to make a real and lasting impact within their communities.”
Coventry & Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust chief executive Sheridan Sulskis said: “Local businesses play such an important role in society by creating and sustaining jobs for local people and supporting local economic activity. Yet many sustainable small businesses in these communities cannot access mainstream finance and remain underserved.
“CWRT is an ethical lender and takes a transparent, fair and relationship-based approach that meets the needs of our customers. We know that accessing the right support and finance can be transformational to the business owners and their employees from the local community.
“We are proud to be working alongside the WCC to deliver this inclusive and accessible finance package and look forward to supporting start-ups, existing businesses and social enterprises across Warwickshire.”
Keely Hancox, operations manager at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “In the current economic climate, access to finance can be an obstacle to individuals who are considering setting up a business and to smaller businesses aiming to grow.
“Warwickshire County Council’s new LCE Fund is a very welcome investment, targeted at micro, small and early stage businesses.”
The LCE runs parallel with another element of the WRIF, the £90 million Business Investment Growth strand, which offers debt finance to medium and larger businesses and was launched in Summer 2021.
Visit www.cwrt.uk.com/wrif-lce-fund or call 02476 551 777 for more information.