A MULTI-MILLION-POUND fund designed to ‘kickstart’ the local economy dealt a massive blow by the coronavirus lockdown has been put forward.

Worcestershire County Council has proposed using £3.5 million of its reserves to help support businesses get up and running again after estimates show the economy in Worcestershire could have seen as much as a 40 per cent decline as a result of the coronavirus.

The county council has said it will use the money to offer grants of £25,000 and in some cases £100,000 to businesses who need them over the next two years.

The council said a “limited” number of £100,000 capital grants will be made available to businesses which have been dealt several blows by the “shock” to the market brought on by the coronavirus.

The money will help businesses who have been hit hardest by the coronavirus lockdown as well as help businesses expand production, employ graduates, introduce new technology and fund research and development.

The council said the full economic impact of the coronavirus had yet to be properly realised but data collected so far had shown manufacturing and retail had taken a big hit because of the lockdown with hotels, pubs and restaurants as well as the leisure, culture and entertainment sectors also badly affected.

Estimates show the hit to the local economy in Worcestershire could be as much as a 40 per cent.

Local surveys of around 1,200 people showed nearly 30 per cent of businesses had carried on as usual, a fifth were beginning to re-open, around 30 per cent of business were ‘ticking over’, a fifth were in ‘survival mode’ and two per cent said they were in crisis.

The majority of businesses said profits would take a hit because of coronavirus with a fifth expecting profits to drop by at least half.

The council along with other business partners including district councils, the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Chamber of Commerce have now devised a seven-point ‘action plan’ to kickstart the economy as the lockdown eases as well as support the recovery over the next 18 months.

The county council’s role, it says, in kickstarting the economy includes continuing to invest and, where possible, speed up investment in its ‘game changer’ sites – which includes Worcester Six and Malvern Science Park - as well as support business reopening and requiring access to government and local funding.

The plan will be discussed by the county council’s cabinet at a meeting on Thursday (June 25).