UK chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak. Picture: REUTERS/JOHN SIBLEY
UK chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak. Picture: REUTERS/JOHN SIBLEY

London — Struggling small businesses across England have so far missed out on £1.4bn ($1.94bn) of aid promised by the government due to delays in processing claims, an events industry trade association says.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak announced on October 31 that businesses in England that could not operate normally due to Covid-19 would be eligible to receive up to £3,000 a month to help support fixed costs such as rent.

Each of the more than 300 local authorities in England is free to set its own precise eligibility criteria for the £1.6bn of funding on offer.

The Events Industry Alliance, a trade body the members of which hoped to benefit from the funding, said most local councils have only paid a fraction of the money available so far.

About 31 councils replied to freedom of information requests sent by the group, and on average they reported paying businesses just 12% of the funds allocated by the government.

If these councils are typical, then £1.4bn of government help has not yet been paid out, the Events Industry Alliance said.

Businesses in the events industry, especially suppliers, reported either a lack of response from councils or disputes over their eligibility.

“A source of constant frustration is the running battle we have to endure with our local council to receive the additional support that we are due,” said Chris Stewart, MD of an exhibition stand business, Smart Display.

Local officials have ignored repeated requests for a £2,000 monthly grant, Stewart said.

A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said councils have disbursed almost £12bn of aid to small firms since the start of the pandemic under various programmes.

“Councils are working fast to ensure businesses eligible for this funding are able to receive it quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.

As a minimum, local authorities need to ensure businesses are solvent and properly registered before paying the grants.

Reuters

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