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Kent County Council to make it easier for SMEs to access interest-free loans with its Small Business Boost scheme

By Chris Price

Council officers will unveil plans to streamline the process for small businesses to apply for interest-free loans later this month.

It is hoped the Small Business Boost will make it easier for companies with fewer than 50 employees to gain access to a share of £35m of government funding.

Companies less than six years old will be encouraged to apply for the cash through the Expansion East Kent scheme, which dishes out money to businesses looking to expand and create jobs.

KCC wants more businesses like Playtime Theatre to bid for interest-free loans through Expansion East Kent. The Whitstable-based production company, which employs eight people, was awarded £7,000 to buy a new van and IT equipment

This is funded through the Government’s £3.2bn Regional Growth Fund, set up to give firms 0% interest loans to stimulate growth and investment.

Kent County Council is set to launch the new Small Business Boost product at an event in Folkestone Academy on Wednesday, July 23.

KCC’s Regional Growth Fund programme manager Jacqui Ward said: “Many companies may not have come forward to Expansion East Kent because they thought they were too small.

“We are going to be offering those companies an opportunity to come forward for 0% finance to create jobs.

“We want to show businesses what support there is out there for them.

“We want to show businesses what support there is out there for them..." - KCC's Jacqui Ward

“There are a lot of other organisations like BSK-CIC, the FSB and the district councils, which we will invite to the event at Folkestone Academy. There is a lot of support and funding.

“We want small businesses with fewer than 50 employees to come forward and join the session.”

In a separate announcement, KCC will reveal the Expansion East Kent scheme will be widened to cover the Ashford borough, having previously covered Canterbury, Dover, Shepway and Thanet.

Companies in the district will be able to apply for interest-free loans of up to £50,000.

The announcement will be made at the Kent B2B Conference run by Kent Invicta Chamber at the Ashford International Hotel tomorrow.

Ashford Borough Council leader Cllr Gerry Clarkson said: “This is fantastic news for businesses within the Ashford borough who have plans to expand and employ more people.

"This scheme provides an excellent opportunity for greater investment from companies who recognise the potential Ashford has, with its fast rail and road links to London and Europe.

“With continued funding coming forward from central government, Kent County Council and Ashford Borough Council to support growth within the town's economy, I would encourage local businesses to take up this wonderful opportunity.”

Kent County Council also covers north Kent through its £20m TIGER fund scheme and west Kent via its £5.5m Escalate initiative.

There is a backlog of £31.5m of loan applications for the £20m TIGER fund, although not all of these are likely to be approved.

So far £21.4m of loans have been approved for Expansion East Kent. The scheme still has two years left to run.

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