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Diss small businesses have mixed outcomes from Covid grants

The Government’s coronavirus grants have been unable to save Diss high street – with one business forced to close its doors this week.

The grants – which range between £10,000 and £25,000 – have been laid out for small businesses that are unable to operate at full capacity during lockdown, but, while some shops in Diss have hailed it as a “lifeline”, others have been forced to vacate their premises.

More than £25 million in Government grants has been distributed by South Norfolk Council so far, as a means of ensuring what is now a very fragile economy can survive the current crisis.

Jonathan and Claire Taylor of Skincense were given a £10,000 grant from South Norfolk Council to stay afloat.
Jonathan and Claire Taylor of Skincense were given a £10,000 grant from South Norfolk Council to stay afloat.

Jonathan and Claire Taylor received a £10,000 grant for their gift ware store Skincense in St Nicholas Street, which they temporarily closed in March.

Despite having to live off savings, Mr Taylor said the grant had prevented them from permanently shutting the business, which they only took over in February, 2019.

“The grant they gave us was a lifeline,” he said. “It has enabled us to get through the past couple of months and will get us through the next couple of months.

“If we hadn’t got the grant, we would have surely thought about shutting up shop for good.

“We would fast be running out of capital to pay the rent and utilities and, obviously, we are not taking a wage, so we are living off my savings.

“Because it was only our first year, we hadn’t been taking a wage from it.

“We thought that after the first 12 months, we would be able to. Then, of course, all of this happened. Easter time was supposed to be a big time for us, but it’s been a disaster.”

The shop is now opening for limited hours, with social distancing measures in place.

Other shops, however, have not been so fortunate. Feline Care Cat Rescue charity shop in Market Place received the same £10,000 loan, but was unable to negotiate a reduced rent with its landlord and was left with no choice but to vacate its home of six years.

Molly Farrar works at the shop, which has used part of the money to move its stock to a significantly cheaper storage facility in Diss.

She said: “Because it’s all in a one-off payment, you don’t know how long that’s going to need to keep you going – and we’ll need to have money to help us open a new shop. But it’s given us that little bit of security at the moment.”

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