Companies in and around Consett will receive backing through the current economic crisis and beyond, thanks to a council grant.

Do Business Network, an organisation which gives practical support to small businesses across the north east, has been awarded £9,900 in funding from Durham County Council’s Derwent Valley Area Action Partnership, to help local businesses survive and recover from the impact of coronavirus.

The award comes from a £1.4 million fund which the council has allocated across the county’s 14 Area Action Partnerships, to enable them to help their communities during these difficult times.

Do Business Network is now providing businesses from the Derwent Valley area with critical intensive support in the form of virtual groups, one-to-one online meetings, and online tutorial videos and resources, to help them through the pandemic.

The activity, which will identify companies’ critical issues, aid them with business planning and allow them to access skills training and networking opportunities, will also support businesses with the process of recovery.

Corinne Walton, Area Action Partnership co-ordinator for Derwent Valley Partnership, said: “Small businesses make a massive contribution to the local economy in the Derwent Valley and are a major employer. The AAP funding means that the local businesses have an opportunity to gain further support to survive the current situation and plan for the future.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Durham Business Network has been working extensively with its 167 members and has seen requests for business support increase by more than 30 per cent. Now, using the grant awarded by the Derwent Valley AAP, it is rolling out support packages available to businesses across the area.

Gary Scott, CEO of the Do Business Network, said: “These are challenging times for small businesses but they also present great opportunities. Our aim is to help businesses to prepare to begin trading again as quickly as possible once lockdown is lifted. Our members currently account for more than 400 local jobs and their contribution is pivotal in bringing a much-needed boost back to our local economy.

“To do this, we’re harnessing the skills and expertise of many local business owners to build a thriving and informed small business community across the Derwent Valley, as well as putting our members in touch with each other, to provide business-to-business support and act as ‘business buddies’.

“We’re also giving hands-on support to businesses in the Do Business Network community; helping them to write business plans for grant applications, showing them how to sell more online, and encouraging them to stay in touch with their customers and suppliers. It’s about acting now to survive the crisis and be in a position to thrive once it’s all over or we’re at least more familiar with what our ‘new normal’ is going to look like.”