Government data shows Central Bedfordshire Council has only allocated 25% of grant funding
As part of the government’s coronavirus business support package, the UK government has distributed £12.3 billion to local authorities in England.
This package includes two grant funding schemes that are available to companies that pay businesses rates.
- The Small Business Grant Fund is a £10,000 grant for all businesses in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief.
- Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund – This grant scheme offers;
A grant of £10,000 available for businesses with a rateable value of less than £15,000 or;
A £25,000 grant for those businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or more but less than £51,000
The government said that as of 19 April 2020, £6 billion has been paid out to 484,166 business properties, approximately half of the grant funding allocated.
For the two grant funding schemes Central Bedfordshire was allocated £45,742,000, and Bedford Borough Council’s pot is £32,816,000.
Data published on 20 April 2020 by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy showed that Central Bedfordshire Council had only allocated £11,495,000.
This is around 25% of the funding, while Bedford Borough had allocated nearly 46% of the expected number of grants.
A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said:
“We have been working really hard to get these important support grants out to business ratepayers as quickly as we can. Our team has been working over the weekends, including Easter, and extra staff have been transferred to help. This means that we now have very few left to process for businesses that have been in touch.
“But we need more business ratepayers to get in touch with us. We do not hold bank account details for many eligible businesses, so cannot just transfer this grant funding – we need them to contact us.
“We have tried to make it as easy as possible for businesses to access this money through a simple form on our website where business ratepayers can also check if they are eligible.
“Where we can we have emailed businesses, and we are now in the process of writing and phoning each eligible businesses that hasn’t yet given us the details we need.
“We would encourage every eligible business to get in touch with us as soon as possible to access this grant funding to help with the impact of coronavirus.”
Councillors assisting eligible businesses to claim funding
Central Bedfordshire councillors representing Dunstable have been assisting local businesses to complete their grant applications.
Councillors Young, Hegley and Ghent, along with local MP Andrew Selous have been offering support and advice during virtual meetings held by the Pride of Dunstable Business Club.
Ed Harrison, the president of the club and managing director of Deakin White Estate Agents, said that around 75% of eligible members have received the funding within three weeks of applying. He added:
“There were issues with the original online application, which was asking too many irrelevant questions. But the updated form was simple to complete.
“We hope that the members that are still to receive their grants will have their applications completed by the end of the week.
“We are really grateful to our MP and our councillors for their assistance in getting this much needed funding to the businesses in Dunstable.”
Approved business support grants to 1290 Central Bedfordshire firms
When asked if all Central Bedfordshire councillors are assisting businesses in claiming funding, a spokesperson said:
“All members are receiving regular updates on the various Government schemes to assist residents and businesses and many residents and businesses are approaching their local ward member for help and advice.
“All councillors have access to an information service set up to help them deal with queries from residents and local businesses.”
The council did not respond when asked if the original online application form was designed by the government or based on CBC’s interpretation of the criteria and guidance provided to councils in England.
It said that as of 21 April 2020, it had contacted all 940 businesses eligible for emergency rate relief with amended bills. Adding that it had also approved business support grants to 1290 firms. Its spokesperson said:
“Supporting local businesses during the pandemic is an important responsibility for the council and it’s been a big task to administer the business rate relief scheme and the new business support grants.
“The processing and validating of these applications is complex and takes time to complete thoroughly.
“This is really important as we are encountering cases of potential fraud and many omissions, and we need to take a responsible approach to handing out public money. It’s vital the right grants get to the right people.
“Businesses can help themselves, and us, by ensuring that any application is completed accurately with all the required details.
“We have beefed up the team dealing with this work and they are working seven days a week to process applications. We expect to make payments to all eligible businesses who have provided us with the correct information within 14 days of their application.”
Eligible businesses with premises in Bedford Borough can apply here.
For those in Central Bedfordshire the application can be found here.
Businesses need to have been registered for business rates as of 11 March 2020. The business rates reference number and business banking details will be need to complete the form.