Firms receive over £ 20million in ‘restart’ funding

HARD-HIT retail and hospitality businesses in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole have received more than £ 20million to help reopen as lockdown restrictions are relaxed, new figures show.

Funding for the government’s £ 5bn restart program has been welcomed by board leaders who have urged companies to act quickly to get the money handed out.

The latest figures from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show that the BCP Council awarded £ 23.5million in grants to 3,142 companies in the retail, food and beverage industries. hospitality and leisure activities as part of the program until the end of May.

It came from a £ 25.6million pot handed over to the board, leaving £ 2.2million to be distributed by the end of July.

The program, which opened in April, was designed to stimulate the economy before the restrictions were lifted.

It offers one-time grants of up to £ 6,000 for non-essential retail businesses and up to £ 18,000 for businesses in the hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and hospitality industries. sports Hall.

Deputy Head of Council Philip Broadhead said: “We are delighted to have awarded more than 3,200 restart grants to BCP businesses spanning a variety of industries, including non-essential retail, hospitality, recreation, personal care and accommodation. The feedback we have received from these companies has been fantastic, and many of them have noted that this support has been a lifeline in keeping them afloat.

“We are now seeing these businesses begin to safely reopen as COVID 19 restrictions are lifted, and we look forward to the entire region recovering better from the pandemic. ”

Across England, £ 2.6 billion had been transferred to more than 340,000 businesses by the councils until the end of May, although figures for six of the 309 councils were not available.

Despite the sums paid, business leaders complained that some boards were too slow to pass on the money requested by businesses.

Andrew Goodacre, Managing Director of the British Independent Retailers Association, said: “This data clearly shows that some local authorities still have money to distribute to hard-hit businesses to help them recover.

“The association has already expressed its disappointment with the speed with which certain local authorities have granted grants. They were supposed to be restart grants, in line with the reopening of so-called non-essential retail businesses on April 12.

“However, we do know from our members that some councils still have not paid the grants – or have paid so many months too late – despite having had business details since the last time the foreclosure grants were made. have been granted. ”

Meanwhile, the British Beer and Pub Association said late payments made matters worse for members already affected by the delay in lifting restrictions on indoor hospitality.

A spokesperson added: “With the postponement to July 19 for a full reopening of our industry, more support is needed in the form of grants.”

At the launch of the Restart Grant program, Small Business Minister Paul Scully and Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston wrote to the boards, urging them to release funding as soon as possible.

This followed some criticism that the councils had been too slow to pass on financial support from other funding programs such as the Additional Restrictions Grant.

The grant, set up to help businesses that have not benefited from other grant schemes, saw £ 1.6bn handed over to the councils and authorities combined, including an additional £ 425m in early April.

At the end of May, nearly £ 350million still had to be allocated, but figures were not available for nine councils.

In BCP, the council had issued £ 8.2million on a fundraising pot worth £ 11.4million in business grants.

The Association of Local Governments, which represents councils in the country, said strict checks must be carried out on businesses before payments under the restart program are issued.

A spokesperson said: “The boards have had to contend with a rapidly changing landscape and directions with different grants applying at different times and closings, but they are working quickly to ensure that businesses can receive funding as quickly as possible. possible.”

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