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Business Support & Funding

Below are updates and information on business support available and funding links.


If you do have any further questions please email: – however, all info needed should be provided on the relevant links. If you do apply for any funding it might be useful to let us know in case a collaboration in the town will enable your project to be more successful.


  • 27.04.21 JOIN THE VISIT KENT CAMPAIGN SHOWCASING KENT’S OUTSTANDING FOOD & DRINK OFFERINGS Closing date 7th May 2021. Join our nationwide tourism reboot campaign. To support the return of domestic tourism and inspire bookings to Kent, Visit Kent is launching a campaign targeting the domestic market by showcasing Kent's outstanding food and drink offer and breath-taking landscapes to capitalise on an increased interest in reconnecting with nature and local produce.This campaign will be supported by the national VisitEngland Escape the Everyday campaign and it will build on our existing Gourmet Garden Trails content by adapting the audience to the domestic market and adding new exciting products.VisitEngland, the tourism partner for the GREAT Campaign, launched in September 2020 a UK-wide domestic marketing campaign, Escape the Everyday. The campaign aims to support the UK tourism industry to recovery by encouraging consumers to explore, discover and treat themselves on a UK short break as and when COVID-19 related restrictions allow and when they are ready to travel. As part of this, Visit Kent along with partner destinations received funding to promote the Gourmet Garden Trails product. The campaign will go live towards the end of May. To join this nationwide domestic tourism reboot campaign, we’re inviting all food and drink and garden-based experiences (from gardens to vineyards) business to join Gourmet Garden Trails. By getting involved you will: Be a part of an exciting, new, product that stretches across the popular gourmet, garden outdoor travel market. Be featured alongside the Flagship Products of the county. Be part of the nationwide reboot campaign by VisitEngland, Escape the Everyday. To find out more, take a read of our Gourmet Garden Trails Introduction Document and FAQ’s at the links on our GGT page:  Work alongside partners such as the RHS and Produced in Kent. It’s FREE! Visit Kent Investor Partners will also feature within flagship campaign content and itineraries as well as having prominence on the website.   


  • 21.04.21 RETURNING TO THE WORKPLACE - DISPLAY HSE NOTICE  'STAYING COVID SECURE' Once you have carried out a risk assessment of your workplace you should display the notice to show that you have complied with the guidance on managing the risk of coronavirus (COVID- 19). Download and print HSE's poster to sign and display from here: guidance on managing the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19).  


  • 12.04.21 RECOVERY LOAN SCHEME OPEN  The Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS) provides financial support to businesses across the UK as they recover and grow following the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses can access loans varying in size from £25,000, up to a maximum of £10 million. Invoice and asset finance is available from £1,000. You can apply to the scheme if Covid-19 has affected your business. You can use the finance for any legitimate business purpose – including managing cashflow, investment and growth. However, you must be able to afford to take out additional debt finance for these purposes. You can read more on the Recovery Loan Scheme here:


  • 12.04.21 NEW UK GIGABIT VOUCHER LAUNCHED The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for communities and businesses in rural areas to have improved broadband connections. Announced on 19 March as part of the wider £5bn ‘Project Gigabit’ programme, the UK Gigabit Broadband Voucher will provide micro-grants of up to £1,500 for households and up to £3,500 for businesses in the hardest to reach rural areas (with current speeds of less than 100Mbps) to support the cost of installing new gigabit-capable connections when part of a group scheme. You can read more on the Gigabit Voucher Scheme here:


  • 07.04.21  APPLY FOR AN HMRC GRANT TO HELP YOUR BUSINESS WITH CUSTOMS DECLARATIONS & COVER THE COST OF THESE ONLINE TRAINING COURSES. The SME Brexit Support Fund could give you up to £2000 to help with training or professional advice, if your business has up to 500 employees and no more than a £100 million annual turnover. The £20 million SME Brexit Support Fund enables traders to access practical support, including training for new customs, rules of origin and VAT processes. Small and medium sized businesses that trade solely with the EU – and are therefore new to importing and exporting processes – are encouraged to apply for the grants.To be eligible, businesses must import or export goods between Great Britain and the EU, or move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. For more info go to:          


  • 06.04.21 KICKSTART SCHEME OPEN The Government’s Kickstart Scheme will subsidise six-month work placements for people aged 16-24 and on Universal Credit. You will also receive an additional grant of £1,500 to support the required employability skills training for your placement. The Kent & Medway Chamber of Commerce can help you successfully apply for a Kickstart grant and give you the option of accessing extensive funded and part-funded employability skills training for your placement. Using the Chamber as your Kickstart provider, you have the choice to deliver your own in-house employability skills training or tap into their cross-funded skills provider network. Their network can not only help you access funded training, but ongoing support across all areas of your business such as apprenticeships, internships and much more.You can read more and register youtr interest in the Kickstart scheme here:


  • 06.04.21 WORKPLACE TESTING PROGRAMME EXPANDED  You can order free rapid lateral flow tests to test your employees twice a week in the workplace. If you have 10 or more employees, from early April you’ll be able to order tests for your employees to collect from their workplace and use at home twice a week. You can do this if you cannot provide testing in the workplace. Employers of seasonal agricultural workers are also now able to sign up for the free tests. You can apply for a free lateral flow Coronavirus tests here:  


  • 06.04.21 IMPORT / EXPORT SERVICES FROM THE KENT & MEDWAY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE The Kent & Medway Chamber of Commerce can help your business with a range of import and export services, including export documentation, customs declarations, rules of origin & certification services, and advice & consultancy. In addition, the Kent & Medway Growth Hub offers free EU transition advice by calling 03333 602300 anytime between 08:30-17:00, Mondays-Fridays. You can read more Chamber of Commerce import/export services here:


  • 30.03.21 Additional Restrictions Support Grants and Restart business grants from April 2021  We are awaiting government guidance about Restart grants and ongoing Additional Restrictions Grants (ARG) in April. Ashford has now spent 95% of its ARG allocation and we therefore need government to give us more details about the level of funding that will be provided moving forward. When we have received the guidance and further information from the government we will be in contact with any eligible businesses. We expect this to be in mid-April. We will be making payments as soon as possible after this time. Please do not contact us in the meantime about these grants as we will not be able to answer any queries about them. You can read more about coronavirus business grants here:


  • 30.3.21 UK tourism businesses registered ‘We’re Good To Go’ get global ‘Safe Travels’ stamp  VisitBritain has today announced that tourism businesses in the UK registered to the ‘We’re Good To Go’ industry standard scheme can now be automatically issued with the international ‘Safe Travels’ stamp from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). The WTTC stamp enables travellers to recognise destinations around the world which have adopted global standardised protocols - so they can experience ‘Safe Travels'. VisitBritain is coordinating the Safe Travels stamp issue in the UK, on behalf of the WTTC, for businesses registered to the We’re Good To Go scheme, with those who welcome international visitors particularly encouraged to apply. You can read more and apply for the We're Good to Go and Safe Travels schemes here:


  • 30.03.21 Reopen and Trade Safely webinar – KENT COUNTY COUNCIL TRADING STANDARDS Friday 9th April : 1-2pm Join representatives from Kent County Council Trading Standards, Environmental Health, KRF Enforcement, Kent & Medway Growth Hub and South East Water on Friday 9th April from 1-2pm. This is an opportunity to ask the experts about the guidelines for re-opening your business. After short introductions, you'll move straight into a Q&A where the panel will answer your questions about: Businesses that can and can’t open, Services you can offer, Preparing your business for re-opening, Keeping your staff and customers safe and Available Funding. Sign up and submit your question to the panel. If you can't make the date, a recording will be made of the event and a link to the replay will be sent to you. You can sign up to the Reopen and Trade Safely webinar here:  


  • 30.03.21 – MAYBE PLATFORM – LOCAL REWARDS SHOPPING GUIDE NOW LIVE FOR BUSINESSESS AND RESIDENTS, PLUS FREE SUPPORT FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES  A new virtual shopping guide that showcases live content from Ashford and Tenterden businesses is now live. It enables shoppers to find businesses in their local areas, view the latest social media content and shop with them for rewards. With UK high streets set to see the reopening of non-essential retail in April, the guides make it simple to support local and will help businesses to connect with nearby shoppers. Every purchase by a registered shopper in participating businesses benefits other registered businesses nearby. It does not require any apps to be downloaded and is completely free for shoppers and businesses to access. The guides, better known as Local Rewards, have been created by Maybe*, a social media management platform, that helps businesses use social media to increase their digital activity and boost sales. The Maybe* platform provides all the tools and training businesses might need to increase revenue through social media engagement, even for those that already understand the basics. Ashford Borough Council is sponsoring 1,000 local businesses across the borough to sign up for a Maybe* account using the voucher code ASHFORDBOROUGH95. The account grants them free access to live webinars, training tools and insight tools for 12 months, as well as one to one support from the Maybe* experts. You can read more about Local Rewards and create a Maybe* account by clicking 'sign up your business' here:


  • 29.03.21 Kent Invicta Chamber How can we support you with employment and recruitment issues? By telling us what is impacting your business, and how you are affected by employment and recruitment issues, we can better understand how to support you and the local business community, as well as those that have recently lost their jobs. Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with leading recruitment business HR GO Recruitment,( is carrying out vital fieldwork to establish how it should respond to, and assist with, the employment needs of local businesses. We would like to ask you to share your recent employment and recruitment experiences, and plans for the immediate future, by completing our Kent & Medway Employment Outlook survey. ( The survey's findings will also be shared with the Kent & Medway Employment Task Force* and will influence their response to the rising levels of unemployment caused by Covid-19. It is essential that your business’ needs are better understood as the Taskforce strives to support the business community and help local people get back into work over the coming year.


  • 20.02.21 SMARTER CHOICES ENERGY INITIATIVE Smarter Choices has been government-funded to provide straightforward building energy-saving solutions. To develop this new service, SMEs with energy bills above £20,000 per year can now access a limited number of free energy assessments and free measurement & verification equipment for pilot projects which proceed to installation. You will get a free impartial building energy assessment, with no obligation to make any purchase. Handholding support will help you identify financing for the improvement measures recommended by the assessment. Following installation, Smarter Choices may provide free monitoring equipment fitted alongside the improvement measures, saving you money.


  • 20.02.21 STEP UP TO SOCIAL WORK The online recruitment process for the Department for Education initiative, ‘Step Up to Social Work’ is now live, and applications to enrol in the next cohort will be accepted until the closing date of 7th April. Step Up aims to encourage graduates and career changers to start a new career in social work, working with vulnerable children, young people and families. This is a full-time, fully funded programme that has been running for eleven years and consists of 14-months of intensive study and real-life placements, leading to a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work. In turn, the programme enables applicants to apply for a role as a social worker upon completion.


15.02.21 Ashford Borough Council

Growth Hub banner reading: "Business Recovery Helpline - Advice and support when you need it the most. Call 03333 602300 - phone lines open 08:30-17:00 Monday to Friday

The helpline is open 08:30-17:00 Mondays-Fridays and can provide support with any business issue you face



  • 12.02.21 Business Bounce Back Loan repayment period extended The Government has announced changes to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) available to small businesses in the UK that will give  companies longer to repay what they have borrowed. Under the current scheme, firms get interest-free loans for the first year. However, many businesses that took out a loan last year will have to begin repaying the money lent to them in May. With large parts of the country likely to remain in lockdown for many weeks to come, the Government is making changes to its existing ‘Pay as you Grow’ (PAYG) initiative that is designed to give small businesses greater support to repay their loan, without it adversely affecting their recovery. Under the new arrangements, businesses will have the option to: * Extend the length of the loan from six years to 10. *Make interest-only payments for six months, with the option to use this up to three times during the life of the loan. *Pause repayments entirely for up to six months. This will mean that businesses can choose to make no payments on their loans until 18 months after they originally took them out. You can read more about Business Bounce Back Loans here:


  • 12.02.21 - Get Ready for Revaluation The next revaluation of business rates is underway in England and Wales - Revaluation 2023. Providing your rental information ensures the business rates you pay are accurate. If you receive a request for rent, lease and ownership details from the Valuation Office Agency you should go ahead and complete the form. It takes less than 30 minutes to ensure your business rates are accurate.









  • LLOYDS BANK & BANK OF SCOTLAND SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS PROGRAMME –  Applications open soon – email your interest & they will send you an application form. A 2 year core grant funding programme that has helped more than 2,000 people to start up, build & scale social enterprises, charities, community projects & impact-led organisations. Support with a free learning programme, a grant between £1000-£7000, a mentor, a supportive community of peers in a similar role to you. There are 3 levels – Start Up, Scale Up, Trade Up. You can use the grant for your project’s running costs and to pay for travel and subsistence to support you in attending the learning programme. Whether you have just an idea, you’re already up-and-running, or you’re ready to scale. There are more detailed criteria for each programme level via the weblink. Inclusivity is one of their core values, and everyone is welcome at SSE, including people who are long-term unemployed, ex-offenders, people with disabilities and people of all abilities. You don’t need any educational qualifications for this programme.


  • MAGIC LITTLE GRANTS FOR SMALL GROUPS –  Application deadline 31st October 2021. Grants of £500 to small charities and community groups. Usually for sports or physical activities but this year will also include going towards project involving the following: Improving mental wellbeing / Enabling community participation in the arts / Preventing or reducing the impact of poverty / Supporting marginalised groups and promoting equality / Improving biodiversity and green spaces / Enabling participation in physical activity / Responding to the climate emergency and promoting sustainability / Increasing community access to outdoor space.


  • KENT COMMUNITY FOUNDATION – Funding available for local charities Your organisation needs to be a constituted group with charitable objects, a registered charity, charitable incorporated organisation (CIO), community interest company (CIC) or not for profit company (limited by guarantee and not shares) in Kent or Medway. If you are not sure about your eligibility contact the Grants Team Mon-Fri 9am-5pm on 01303 814500 or email


  • ASHFORD LEISURE TRUST FUND - SPORTS GROUP FUNDING FOR GROUPS IN THE ASHFORD BOROUGH / email: Closing date 31st December 2021. Do you run a sports group in the Ashford borough? You could apply for funding through the Ashford Leisure Trust Fund with Kent Community Foundation. Charitable groups offering healthy recreation activities to people living within the borough can apply for grants of up to £10,000. Once on the website you will need to scroll down to find the Ashford Leisure Trust Fund to apply.




  • NATIONAL LOTTERY FUNDS The largest community funder in the UK from money raised by National Lottery players. They support communities and want to help make a difference to people's lives.There are several different types of funding available including: NATIONAL LOTTERY AWARDS FOR ALL ENGLAND – funding between £300 - £10,000 for up to one year for voluntary or community organisations. Closing date - ongoing. REACHING COMMUNITIES ENGLAND – funding for over £10,000 or more for up to five years for projects that work with the community, whether that’s a community living in the same area, or with people with similar interests or life experiences. Closing date – ongoing. PARTNERSHIPS – funding for over £10,000 or more for up to five years for voluntary or community organisations that work together with a shared set of goals to help their community thrive – whether it be community living in the same area or people with similar interests or experiences. Closing date – ongoing. #IWILLFUND -  The #iwillfund will enable more young people to take part in social action through high quality opportunities which create lifelong habits. AWARDS FROM THE UK PORTFOLIO – Over £50,000. The UK Portfolio explores new and innovative approaches, and develops and tests new ways of building a stronger civil society. Closing date – ongoing. GROWING GREAT IDEAS – minimum funding is £150,000 for a minimum length of two years. Funding can be available for up to ten years in some circumstances. A total of £25m for this project up to March 2022 & more funding beyond that. The programme has a focus on supporting transformational and long term change. Looking to invest in different compositions of people, communities, networks and organisations over the long term. Closing date – ongoing. FORCES IN MIND – supporting the psychological wellbeing and successful and sustainable transition of veterans and their families into civilian life. Closing date – ongoing. NATIONAL LOTTERY GRANTS FOR HERITAGE - £3000-£5 million.  Programmes for all types of projects that focus on heritage in the UK. They will  prioritise heritage projects that will - boost the local economy;encourage skills development and job creation; support wellbeing; create better places to live, work and visit;  improve the resilience of organisations working in heritage.Every project will need to achieve thier inclusion outcome, ‘a wider range of people will be involved in heritage’.They will also expect all projects to demonstrate that they are building long-term environmental sustainability into their plans, as appropriate  NATIONAL LOTTERY AWARDS FOR ALL ENGLAND - £300-£10,000. To support what matters to people and communities for voluntary or community organisations most adversely impacted by COVID-19. Support can be given to continue to deliver activity – whether in need of crisis response, recovery or business as usual activity. It will support to change and adapt, becoming more resilient to respond to new and future challenges. Closing date-ongoing.


  • ALPKIT FOUNDATION £50 to £500 cash to individuals, community groups, schools and organisations to encourage people to get outdoors and have great experiences that otherwise couldn’t happen.



  • COLYER-FERGUSSON TRUST – INVESTING IN COMMUNITIES  Charities facing a funding crisis due to Coronavirus are encouraged to apply to Colyer-Fergusson Trust through this programme under the ‘stabilising’ theme.


  • CO-OPERATIVES FUND There is a network of thousands of co-operatives across the UK, from community owned pubs, fan owned football clubs to farmer controlled businesses. Co-operatives are worth £36 billion to the UK economy.