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The Sunday Times: Big guns pledge help for flood-hit small firms

August 5, 2007
Jenny Davey

BRITAIN’s biggest businesses are preparing to ride to the rescue of the 10,000 small companies hit by the summer floods.

John Hutton, the new business and enterprise secretary, will announce tomorrow that BT, BP, Shell, Asda, Tesco and Marks & Spencer are among a band of businesses that have pledged to help.

The companies will join a new working group which aims to provide support and assistance to small companies in the affected areas.

Hutton will unveil the initiative during a visit to southwest England tomorrow during which he plans to talk to business people about the difficulties they are facing after the floods and ask what support they need.

His department said that 11 companies and two organisations had already backed the initiative.

The companies are expected either to run seminars in affected areas, team up with small or medium-sized enterprises, or give advice and spend time at chambers of commerce or citizens advice bureaus.

“It is clear that people in flood-hit communities want their lives to return to normal as quickly as possible,” said Hutton.

“This has to mean using all the resources and expertise available to help local businesses get back on their feet, providing their own communities with work, services and business as usual.”

Other businesses that have agreed in principle to support the initiative include Scottish Power, National Grid, Centrica, Eon, and Scottish & Southern.

It is understood that the initiative to get businesses to offer support was pieced together at the last minute at the end of last week, ahead of Hutton’s visit to the affected area.

More than £10m has already been made available through the regional development agencies to help affected businesses. More than 200 companies have made claims.

The government estimates about 7,000 businesses have been affected by the June floods and 3,000 by the July floods.

But the Conservatives said the help did not go far enough. Peter Ainsworth, the Tory spokesman, welcomed the money but added: “In truth, in the greater scope it doesn’t look like it’s going to go very far.”

Last week Stephen Timms, the business minister, visited Shef-field and Hull. “To their great credit, the vast majority of businesses in the South Yorkshire and Hull areas are already back in operation � the local business community has proven to be resilient and determined in the face of adversity,” he said. and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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