South East financial powerhouse fears coronavirus ‘economic shock’ for Kent businesses


By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

A financial powerhouse has expressed fears over the likely “economic shock” caused by the coronavirus crisis for thousands of businesses across the county.

The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) has warned that tens of thousands of businesses in the south east region, including in Kent and Medway, will face a “severe” financial hit over the coming weeks.

Several sectors expected to be hit the hardest include retail, aviation, hospitality, theatres and tourism.

SELEP’s chair, Chris Brodie, said: “If this goes on for another three months the economy could be a in a very different position than it is in today.”

His comments came during a SELEP strategic board meeting where some 15 business leaders and councillors met online, via Zoom, to discuss an alarming economic report on the COVID-19’s damage to local companies.

SELEP is one of 38 partnership bodies across the UK and covers East Sussex, Kent, Medway, Southend and Thurrock. It brings together business, local government and education partners and aims to drive economic growth by setting priorities for investment in the area.

A SELEP report published to the strategic board this week stated: “As the impact of COVID-19 accelerates, the introduction of social-distancing measures is already being felt and will result in a severe economic shock to our economy.

“Clear and decisive action is required by SELEP at this time of economic uncertainty to support businesses across the SELEP area.”

The main issues relate to cash-flow problems for small and medium-sized business; customer shortages due to major UK job cuts and growth in online consumerism as a result of the strict social-distancing laws.

SELEP’s deputy chair Sarah Dance told members “revolutionary” thinking would be needed in the board’s collective response to the health crisis during the global pandemic.

Suggestions included “flexible” deferrals on loan repayments, a 12-month “grace” period on interest charges as well as clearer communication with business leaders over any further Government advice.

Around £22.2m of cash remains unallocated in the local enterprise partnership’s budget. This could be used to bolster companies across the south east region.

Of this, SELEP officers suggested investing £206,500 in local crowdfunding schemes to help struggling firms, but this received widespread disapproval from dubious members.

Kent County Council leader Roger Gough

Kent County Council leader Roger Gough (Con), who was elected to his post last October, said: “Around the crowd funding initiative, I am sceptical. It does not seem to fit with the strategic priorities of the board.”

Kent Invicta’s chamber of commerce chief executive, Jo James, who also opposed the move, added: “We could find that we have been putting money in which is used as a sticking plaster and losing money down the line because the business can’t survive.”

SELEP’s strategic board unanimously agreed to offer “flexibility” on repayments of loans for several schemes.

A 12-month grace-period on interest charges was also universally backed.

In addition, SELEP’s spending commitments on future projects of the Local Growth Fund will continue for at least the next six months, including Thanet Parkway station and the A28 Sturry link road, near Canterbury.

The proposed Thanet Parkway railway station

This comes after a major cash injection of £330bn was promised to UK businesses, announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak last month. KCC’s current loan holders have been given a 12-month repayment free period.

A COVID-19 crisis sub-committee was also considered by the SELEP board, but rejected at the eleventh hour in the favour of more regular meetings involving the whole membership.

Further updates will be provided at SELEP’s full strategic board meeting, scheduled for June 12.


  1. Kcc and selep should scrap funding for thanet parkway station which has no planning permission and save £36 million and then stop pleading poverty

    • Afternoon Cllr Lewis
      But KCC love throwing money at what is known to be not wanted.
      It was Roger Gale who orchestrated this decades ago. It fell apart we already lost money on this.
      Are they also on this £25m committee
      If they have this money
      Why is it mot spent yet

  2. SELEP’s chair, Chris Brodie, said: “If this goes on for another three months the economy could be a in a very different position than it is in today.”

    The elite of Kent Business at your service to state the flipping obvious.

  3. Kcc are supposed to be represented on the. “£25 million Margate board “ along side roger gale, i as the Margate Kent county councillor have not been contacted to be on the board, perhaps my views are too radical for the Thanet establishment that have held us back for decades

    • It is about time we changed that Councillor Lewis.
      I think we need proper representation
      Water board outside my house for a sewage problem.
      Stepping outside my back garden the ammonia hit my eyes and throat.
      Van has turned up
      Neither is wearing any face mask or gloves just their orange outdoor wear.
      I’ve lived here 3 years and it’s never happened… On top of all the other shit going on. I could right now cry my eyes out…
      Thanet Council officers destroy they are amongst others toxic to the hilt and snell of poor drainage… My view my opinions do not stink. I want a council that’s passionate and Cliftonville West needs sustainability.
      We need proper businesses not art shops or junk shops
      Keep art to Margate not here.
      We have massive open spaces in Cliftonville that need to be made into real areas of tourism.
      Bring back crazy golf.
      Bring back the golfing area.
      Repair our benches.
      Keep the pavilion open for concerts all year round.
      Make it a place to live
      Proper signage as we come into Cliftonville
      Let us have concerts free to aid well being and bring us together
      Cliftonville needs a senior school
      We need outreach for young people
      Cliftonville needs proper sustainable growth.

  4. I am a bit suspicious about the promised economic damage. Of course there will be a real shock to the economy, locally and nationally.
    But this virus destroys people NOT buildings, or offices, or workshops and computers and machinery. All the sinews of the economy will still be in place when we go back(a bit dustier, maybe).
    So, once we are back at work, in time, work will resume as before. And I expect a lot of people will be glad to start earning again.
    But we have had a rude awakening to the fact that so much of the entire economy has been “running on empty” for so long.
    I’m not just talking about the NHS and Social Care homes, as we know that they have been criminally run-down for so long that they haven’t been able to properly respond to the sudden pandemic.
    I really mean the private businesses, large and small, that are telling us that they cannot survive for even a couple of weeks without a cash injection of some kind from the government. What kind of business plan involves going bust if income drops just for a few weeks? A dodgy, back-of-a-fag-packet kind of business, I suspect.
    Or the kind of very large business, an airline maybe, that takes in millions of pounds , then quickly pays loads of cash to the owners and share holders and, hey presto, they announce an economic disaster pending as they appear to have no money in the Bank and can they ,please,have shed loads of taxpayers dosh to keep them going!
    Our economy is run on very precarious foundations. Businesses are set up for short term mega bucks for the owners who take all they can out of the cash, and then announce the business is , “tragically”, insolvent and the pension fund has gone and the workforce can claim peanuts in Benefits, only payable after 5 weeks if you are lucky.
    We can’t carry on running an economy like this. And we can’t keep on bailing out the people who run it!

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