A SUPPORT group is providing a lifeline for business owners, operators and self employed people in Teesdale.
Teesdale Businesses – Covid-19 and Beyond was launched by Kenny Walker, who owns and runs Chocolate Fayre, in Barnard Castle.
In less than a week, it has more than 150 members including florists, cafe owners, business advisors and solicitors.
Mr Walker said: “For weeks now, businesses have been trying to work out how long they can stay afloat with little or no trade for many and very little by way of actual monetary support from the government – despite the promises, the systems to actually process and help generate the financial support for businesses are mainly not in place yet.
“As a high street business owner, it’s been a worrying time for us at Chocolate Fayre. At one point, we thought we would have to close our doors and write-off our entire Easter stock during one of our busiest times of the year.
“However we have been allowed – indeed encouraged – to continue operating via our website and by taking phone orders, for which we are very grateful.”
But he added: “For most other businesses in Teesdale, it’s a very different story.
“I have had numerous conversations with my fellow business operators, worried about being able to pay their staff, pay rents, manage the bills, or even simply put food on their own tables. It’s a very serious situation.”
Teesdale Businesses – Covid-19 and Beyond aims to provide a central point for help and support, as well as a forum to share ideas and plans for the future.
Mr Walker added: “I realised that if we didn’t do something to work as a community of businesses operators and owners, and self-employed individuals, we risked seeing livelihoods ruined, our vibrant high streets decimated, and local unemployment rising.
“Worse still, I could see some parallels between now and the horrendous foot-and-mouth situation of 2001, where the pressures of the situation were in some cases intolerable.”
Support has been provided by Durham County Council and the group has members providing expert advice in their field.
Mr Walker said: “It’s early days just now, and I’m already seeing the huge range of businesses affected in our area from various different sectors, along with the wide range of numerous challenges each business and individual faces right now.
“For some, it’s very stressful just now, for others, liabilities may be less, and they can concentrate on planning for a brighter future. Currently, there are about 150 businesses who have joined the group.
“Others can simply search for the Teesdale Businesses – Covid-19 and Beyond group on Facebook and request to join.”