CITY centre businesses struggling to overcome the “hit” of the coronavirus lockdown can dip into an urgent support package offered as a one-off lifeline.

The City of Durham Parish Council has announced what it terms “an unprecedented” emergency business resilience fund of £30,000.

It will provide urgent support to local businesses impacted by the crisis and provide reassurance to visitors and city residents.

The fund is designed to complement the range of support available from the Government, Durham County Council and other organisations, providing eligible businesses with non-repayable grants of up to £1,000 each.

It is hoped it will help to steer them through the unprecedented pandemic period and cover additional costs of making businesses Covid-19 health and safety compliant.

A capital grant fund for this year only, it is intended to be used to support sole traders and independent businesses with activities which aim to, build business resilience, strengthen growth, and, safeguard jobs.

The city parish has already supported the resumption of trade for the city’s popular outdoor market, which re-opened on Saturday.

It helped to fund additional hand sanitisers, personal protective equipment and the hiring of social distance ambassadors to steward the market and provide the public with reassurance.

The news follows an announcement last month that the parish council has contracted the services of award-winning North-East retail consultant Graham Soult to support local businesses through the difficulties of coronavirus outbreak and to give city centre businesses a boost.

City parish council chair Elizabeth Scott said: “We are absolutely delighted to be announcing this package of measures to support local businesses in Durham City through what are unquestionably very worrying and uncertain times.

“The fund is specifically aimed at helping businesses build a resilience to Covid-19, strengthen growth, safeguard jobs and provide the public reassurance.

“This is an unprecedented level of support from a parish council for its local businesses and we are committing a significant part of our budget to this.

“A number of our much-loved independents and sole traders have already reached out to us for help and we are doing everything we possibly can to support them.

“But, we won’t stop there. We’re already lobbying the county council on issues such as re-opening and management of public toilets and asking them to look at offering free on-street parking and free use of the park and rides.

“It would give businesses a much needed shot in the arm and get footfall back to Durham as safely as possible.”

The fund is now open, available on a first-come basis.

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