Government confirms £2.5m fund in wake of Salisbury attack

A new £2.5 million fund has been set up to help support businesses in the wake of the Novichok attack in Salisbury, the Government has announced.

The attack on March 4, left double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in a critical condition and prompted a major diplomatic response from governments across Europe.

The funding was agreed by the Government's Ministerial Recovery Group and aims to encourage visitors to return to the city in the wake of the incident.

A £1 million package of government funding to support businesses and to boost tourism and visitors includes:

- £220,000 towards the immediate response to the incident for Wiltshire County Council;

- £367,500 to provide support to businesses affected by the incident;

- up to £100,000 to the local emergency fund to support businesses affected and to promote recovery and growth in Salisbury;

- a £200,000 package of tourism promotion;

- up to £100,000 to help the authority with public health costs associated with the incident.

David Lidington, the Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, said: "The people of Salisbury have shown great strength and resilience in the face of a cowardly and indiscriminate act.

"The Government is committed to supporting this historic British city as it recovers and we will continue to do everything possible to help Salisbury moving forward.

"The message is clear: the city is safe and its shops, restaurants and beautiful sites remain open for business."

In addition, the Home Office has agreed £1.6 million in special grant payments for Wiltshire Police to meet the initial exceptional costs of the response - and further funding as the investigation continues.

Baroness Jane Scott, the Leader of Wiltshire Council, said: "This funding is crucial to help support Salisbury to recover and get back to business as usual.

"The focus now is supporting the city's businesses; particularly those directly affected by the incident and to do all we can to encourage visitors and shoppers to visit the city.

"We need to market and promote the city to ensure that national and international tour operators and visitors continue to choose Salisbury as a destination of choice."

Salisbury incident
Salisbury incident

Experts have said decontamination of the site could take weeks or months as the Zizzi restaurant where they pair ate and The Mill pub as well as an access route through The Maltings shopping area remain cordoned off more than three weeks since the incident.

Concern was raised by members of the public about the long-term public health impact of the incident which the council said was still being examined.

Alex Chalke, a computer studies student, said he had been forced to take holiday since the incident forced the shop to close as he was unable to take an offer of an alternative temporary placement at another shop in Southampton.

The 24-year-old said he did not wish to name his employer out of concern that he would lose his job.

Mr Chalke said: "I am out of work because of the cordon around The Maltings shopping centre, I've had to take holiday.

"It's a little bit troubling because there is the uncertainty of when the shop is going to open again and whether I am likely to get paid any time in the future."

A meeting of Wiltshire County Council's cabinet heard the number of people taken ill following the incident was limited to a total of four people, not the 38 previously reported.

All but one of the locations sealed off by police around the city will be handed over by the police for decontamination by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

But the meeting was told the council requested this process not start until after the Easter holiday to limit the impact on the image of the city centre.