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Furniture retailer weathers Covid-19 storm to emerge bigger and better

Merthyr Tydfil furniture dealer Chris Bourne’s family business has not only managed to survive the challenge from Coronavirus, it’s also been able to emerge from it looking stronger than before.

Bourne Home Furniture has moved from its previous location at St Tydfil Shopping Centre’s indoor market to much larger premises on Pant Industrial Estate, invested in increased stock and topped up furloughed staff wages to 100%.

Chris was able to do this with the help of a £10,000 Welsh Government Covid-19 Non-domestic rates (NDR) grant and earlier this week, the new warehouse was officially opened by County Borough Council Leader Cllr Kevin O’Neill.

Chris, 29, was originally employed as a sub-contractor on the railways. “After years of working away and awkward shift patterns, I wanted a change and to spend more time at home with the family, so decided to go out on my own,” he said. “I saved some money and went for it.”

He and fiancé Shannon started the business in 2018 and currently employ three other members of staff. “They’ve been furloughed during the lockdown and we’ll soon hopefully look forward to welcoming them back in to work.

“The NDR grant helped us advance payments to staff and we were able to keep them topped up to 100% wages, not to impact their and their families’ lives during such an uncertain time.”

Chris added: “Although we were able to continue to trade via our online service during the peak of Covid-19, we also received help with the move in that it gave us an opportunity to invest in new lines of stock and also fill up the new unit quicker than originally planned.”

Bourne Home Furniture is a family business in every sense of the word, with Chris’s graphic designer brother Adam working on the company website and sister Kelly helping out by advertising products on social media platforms.

Sons Leo and Cohen are also joining in: six-year-old Leo often accompanies Dad on deliveries to customers, lighting up their faces with his character and often getting sweets or chocolate as a tip for his help; while Cohen, two, helps Mam in the shop with ‘engaging the customers and keeping her on her toes’.

“Since we started the business nearly two years ago, we’ve had continued support from Merthyr Council in different forms and from different departments,” said Chris.

“Particularly so in trying to find larger suitable premises as we outgrew the market stall rather quickly, to where we are now, where the help and support with the grant and opening has all been fantastic.”

Cllr O’Neill said: “Not only is it great that Bourne Home Furniture has managed to weather the Coronavirus storm with the help of Welsh Government and the Council, it’s brilliant that the business is also going from strength to strength.

“I wish Chris continued success and look forward to seeing Bourne Home Furniture blossoming into the future.”

For further information on the support available, please email economicdevelopment2@merthyr.gov.uk


Merthyr Tydfil businesses helped to access more than £12.5m Covid-19 support

Merthyr Tydfil council officers have helped local companies access over £12.5m in Welsh Government grants and are helping them plan for recovery using a business health check questionnaire.

To date, more than 1,000 Merthyr Tydfil businesses with premises affected by coronavirus have been identified by the County Borough Council’s Revenues and Community Regeneration teams as qualifying for and received funding.

In addition, 120 businesses took part in a survey aimed at building a picture of Covid-19’s impact on their trading and recovery planning, the results of which are being used to determine what further support is needed.

A high percentage of those responses were from town centre businesses; 96% of responders said they had suffered income loss; 47% had furloughed staff; 66% had received grants; and 27% had coronavirus recovery plans.

Cllr Andrew Barry, Cabinet Member for Finance and Governance, said: “We are delighted with the way in which we were able to quickly get the financial support out to our businesses.

“The business health check is helping us develop action plans for individual organisations. Those who didn’t have recovery plans are being assigned a key officer from the department to work with them on putting plans together.

“The health check painted a devastating picture of how hard these businesses have been hit by coronavirus, but we’re doing all we can to help their survival.”

The Council is working on other proposals to ensure the future sustainability and vibrancy of businesses in the town centre after the lockdown ends. Ways of operating will be different, but plans are in hand to make sure that traders can continue to operate as normally as possible.

For further information on the available support, please email economicdevelopment2@merthyr.gov.uk


New local start-ups urged to apply for support grants

New Merthyr Tydfil businesses struggling to cope with the impact of Coronavirus are now able to apply for one-off awards of £2,500 from Welsh Government’s new Start-Up Grant scheme.

The £5m fund is described as ‘a bursary to support newly created self-employed businesses with immediate cash flow support to help them survive the economic consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak’.

You are not eligible for this grant if you are eligible for, or have received:

The Business Rate Grant from the County Borough Council
Economic Resilience Fund for SME and microbusinesses
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme through HMRC

Cllr Andrew Barry, Cabinet Member for Finance and Governance, said: “This new grant will support up to 2,000 businesses in Wales, providing crucial funding to people who established their businesses between 1 April 2019 and 1 March 2020 and helping them to continue trading through the pandemic.

“This will help to support new businesses which are currently falling through the gaps of existing financial assistance schemes.”

The grant can only be claimed by businesses that meet the following criteria:

Started trading between 1 April 2019 and 29 February 2020
Annual turnover less than £50,000
Businesses must be operating and employing in Wales
Businesses must have one or more of the following:

HMRC Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) Number

VAT Registration Number or a VAT exemption certificate

Have experienced a drop in turnover greater than 50% as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak (since 1 March 2020)
Businesses will need to provide

Proof of identification (one of the following): current UK or EEA photocard driving licence; current signed passport; or original birth certificate

Proof of business address through council tax statement or utility bill

Evidence of active trading up to 17 March 2020 through business bank statement or other financial statement (e.g. Paypal)

The Newly Self-Employed Bursary is open to applications from 29 June 2020 for up to three months. Applications will be dealt with on a first come first served basis.

Businesses can check their eligibility by visiting the Business Wales website https://fundchecker.businesswales.gov.wales/

Applications can then be made through this link: https://bit.ly/3igV1rZ

 

Council at forefront of exciting transport improvements delivery

Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council has been awarded £6.3m to manage exciting transport developments across South East Wales, including the Metro project and electrification of buses and taxis.

The Council is managing both schemes on behalf of the Cardiff Capital Region Transport Authority (RTA), which comprises 10 local authorities. In Merthyr Tydfil, the funding will support the development of a new railway station at Pentrebach and electric vehicle charging for buses and taxis at the new bus station.

“The Council is delighted to be at the forefront of delivering transport improvements across the region by managing the funding for both the Metro Enhancement and Ultra Low Emission Vehicle Programmes,” said Council Leader Cllr Kevin O’Neill.

“We’re working closely with Welsh Government on plans for the new railway station and strategic park and ride facility at Pentrebach. Transport for Wales, on behalf of the Council and Welsh Government, is also carrying out feasibility work at the main railway station’s existing line, platform and building infrastructure,” he added.

“We continue to work in partnership with Welsh Government and Transport for Wales in identifying and developing exciting new transport proposals that will complement and enhance the significant investment in the Core Valleys Lines network and new Merthyr Tydfil Bus Station.”

The RTA announced yesterday that it had been successful in obtaining £5m from Welsh Government’s Local Transport Fund towards South East Wales Metro and Metro Plus schemes, which include a range of projects such as the Pentrebach Station.

A further £1.3m was awarded from Welsh Government’s Ultra Low Emission Vehicle Transformation Fund (ULEV) to assist with the delivery of electric vehicle infrastructure for public use, taxis and private hire, and buses at various locations and transport hubs throughout the region.

The County Borough Council had bid on RTA’s behalf for both sets of funding and will manage both schemes.

Full details can be found on the RTA website here https://bit.ly/3cWER3c and here https://bit.ly/2MQEmNC

 


Pitch fees scrapped for 2019/20 season

As with many other businesses and industries, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on sports and leisure. Merthyr Tydfil’s sporting leagues are no exception to this and as well as the impact of Covid-19 they have had storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge to contend with, resulting in play being halted for many months over the winter.

The impact of all this has meant that not only have they not been able to play but they have also been severely restricted in their ability to raise funds through raffles, events and other means, which for some is their only form of income.

We want to ease some of this additional financial pressure and to help them as much as we possibly can during these challenging times.

It has therefore been decided by Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council’s Cabinet to scrap all pitch fees for all clubs and groups for the 2019/20 season.

We’re unsure as to when pitches will reopen for play, and we’ll await further guidance from Welsh Government on this, but we hope to get things up and running to the new normal as soon as possible!

 


Merthyr Tydfil businesses supported to get back on track post-lockdown

Merthyr Tydfil council officers have been working with local businesses to try to limit the damage they face as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.

Merthyr Tydfil businesses supported to get back on track post-lockdown

As well helping companies access £12m in Welsh Government grants, the County Borough Council’s Revenues and Community Regeneration teams are helping them plan for recovery using a business health check questionnaire.

To date, 975 Merthyr Tydfil businesses with premises affected by coronavirus have been identified as qualifying for funding, with those remaining in the process of being tracked down.

In addition, hundreds of businesses are taking part in a survey aimed at building a picture of Covid-19’s impact on their trading and recovery planning, the results of which will be used to determine what further support is needed.

Cllr Andrew Barry, Cabinet Member for Finance and Governance, said: “We’re very pleased that we’ve been able to respond quickly and get grants out to those that desperately need them, and we’re trying to contact the remaining ones that haven’t come forward.

“We’re also pleased with the way in which the business health check is helping us understand the models the businesses were set up on, and to look at whether they will still work in the future.

“Using this information, our teams are developing action plans for individual organisations and assigning a key officer from the department to work with them. These businesses are one of our top priorities and we’ll do all we can to help their survival.”

Morgan Financial Solutions, based at the Orbit Business Centre since 2014, received the £10,000 grant for small businesses, which meant the company didn’t have to make any staff redundant.

Founder and Managing Director Phil Morgan said the firm, which offers mortgage advice through an extensive broker and introducer network, had a head office team of four permanent members of staff with more than 20 self-employed advisors in locations across England and Wales.

“The grant has been fantastic because it’s meant I haven’t had to lay people off,” he added. “The support I’ve had from Council staff based at the Orbit Centre has been a massive help. In fact, I wouldn’t have known about the grant if it wasn’t for them.”

Another small business in receipt of a grant was Lucy Lou’s Tattoos in Pontmorlais. Proprietor Lucy Turner is already gearing up to reopen when allowed, although she’ll have to take strict precautions.

“I’ve purchased face visors for myself and the two other tattooists who’ll be working here after lockdown,” she said. “We’ll have disposable masks for our clients and there will be one client per tattooist, with no friends or family allowed to stay with them during the session. There’ll be hand sanitiser in each room, and payments by card only.”

Lucy said she was very grateful for the Council’s backing. “The Council have helped me out a great deal during this time and there was no hesitation in explaining anything I was unsure about,” she added.

“I had been in the middle of renovating part of the shop before lockdown, and the grant has given me the ability to continue with that and keep the shop ticking over. Thank you very much!”

The Council is working on other proposals to ensure the future sustainability and vibrancy of businesses in the town centre after the lockdown ends. Ways of operating will be different, but plans are in hand to make sure that traders can continue to operate as normally as possible.

For further information on the available support, please email economicdevelopment2@merthyr.gov.uk

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