A MULTI-million pound fund must be created to keep small businesses afloat, a party leader claims.

Andrew Baggott, leader of the Basildon Conservative Party, is demanding Basildon Council gets the plan together for firms before Government money comes in June.

He says all homeless people must be found emergency shelter as soon as possible.

The council is set to discuss the calls at a meeting tonight, Tuesday.

It comes as the country, residents and businesses continue to battle the pandemic.

Mr Baggott, said: “I want an update on how we are doing for our homeless people.

“I suggested £2million to help firms but it could be much more. The council could then claim it back from the Government.”

It’s been welcomed by traders, with some saying it should have been drafted in sooner.

Craig Lawreniuk, 38, manager of Pitsea Market, said: “I think it would make a massive difference if the council gets a fund together.

“Working closely with traders I see how difficult this is for them.

“Retail especially needs help as we have been outlawed by the virus and the internet.”

On March 16, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced Government-backed loans worth £330billion to prop up the economy and pledged to support small firms with access to £25,000 cash grants and a 12-month break from business rates.

Gavin Callaghan, Labour leader of Basildon Council, said: “Blanket policies are the easy option but will leave people behind and heap more debt on those who will be struggling.

“That’s why our preferred policy is to help every individual and business to get on the front foot and shape a bespoke plan to provide households and businesses with certainty through this period.

“We want plans that work, protect the council’s ability to continue delivering frontline services but don’t put further burdens on people to owe the council money they can’t pay back.

“We offered accommodation to all 20 people sleeping rough in Basildon.

“Sixteen people accepted accommodation and food packages. We left messages for the four people who have not yet accepted accommodation, and we have suitable accommodation available for them.”

Southend Council bosses said all rough sleepers have been provided emergency accommodation in hotels, while chiefs are monitoring the situation for businesses and residents.

Ian Gilbert, Labour leader of the council, said his officers are working very hard on the issues.

He said: “Business rates are being waived for 2020/21 for the retail, hospitality and leisure sector in line with national guidance, and we have a dedicated page on our website with various Government information, including how we as a council can support our businesses.

“The relevant forms for businesses to complete to access business grant funding are being finalised, in line with Government guidance.

“We are continuing to monitor Government guidance and will continue to adapt the support available as the situation continues to change.”

In Basildon there are separate email addresses for residents and business coronavirusResidents@basildon.gov.uk


In Basildon there is also dedicated phone line for those in need who should call 01268 533 333 – and selecting Option 1 immediately.

In Southend residents who are vulnerable and do not have local support in place should call 01702 212497.