One in three Yorkshire businesses still waiting for emergency coronavirus grants

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One in three Yorkshire businesses are still waiting for emergency grants from the Government, six weeks after Chancellor Rishi Sunak launched the rescue package.

More than £1.3bn was allocated for 109,000 small businesses and those operating in the retail and leisure sectors as part of the measures to prevent an economic catastrophe following on from the Covid-19 pandemic.

But TheBusinessDesk.com can reveal that only 65% of grants had been received by eligible businesses in the region by the start of this week.

Across England, 62% of grants have been paid out with businesses receiving £7.6bn. However £4.7bn remained unpaid, including more than £460m due to Yorkshire companies.

The payments are from the Government’s small business grants fund and the retail, hospitality and leisure business grants fund.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on March 17 – the Tuesday before lockdown began – that the Government would hand out grants to nearly 1m small businesses.

All businesses eligible for small business rates relief or rural rates relief can receive a £10,000 grant.

Specific support was provided to shops, restaurants, bars and other leisure operators. Businesses which are eligible for the expanded retail discount will receive a £10,000 grant if its rateable value is up to £15,000, and a grant of £25,000 if its rateable value is between £15,000 and £51,000.

Nationally 345,000 of the 959,000 eligible businesses were still waiting to receive their money by Sunday, more than one month into the lockdown which has sent shockwaves through the economy.

It has also put increased pressure on stretched local authorities, which are dealing with the long-term effects of a decade of local government cuts, the short-term disruption to their own operations, and additional demands on its services.

Leeds City Council is one of the best-performing large authorities in the country having distributed 69% of its £162m allocation.

It brought in extra resource from across the council to mae payments and its teams continue to work seven days a week to process payments.

Cllr Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council said: “Our teams have put a tremendous amount of work into getting this money out to businesses as quickly as possible, and will continue to treat this as a top priority as we realise how important this is in these uncertain and difficult times we find ourselves in.

“We know times are tough for businesses at the moment, and we want to say a big thank you for the way you have all responded to the pandemic and restrictions put in place, and we are doing what we can to support you during this time and into the recovery phase as we start to talk about what the future looks like.”

There is a huge disparity between the performance of local authorities, with more than seven out of 10 businesses still waiting for money in some parts of the country.

Five authorities – Sandwell, Harrow, Slough, Tendring and South Derbyshire – had paid out less than 30% of their allocation by Sunday night, and 41 authorities had distributed less than half.

However Ealing, Epping Forest and Westminster had all allocated more than 90% of their funding.

Sheffield City Council is at the bottom of the Yorkshire rankings, with only 49% of its £113m allocated having been passed on to businesses.

Toby Harper, chief executive of Harper James Solicitors, which is based in the city, described the figures as “deeply concerning.”

He said: “These grants provide a lifeline to many small businesses in the city and it is absolutely vital that the numbers being distributed is increased. This is money the Government has already allocated so we need to urgently ramp up the speed at which it is arriving in the bank accounts of firms.

“It is deeply concerning that six weeks into the lockdown this is happening. Businesses in Sheffield are fighting for survival and they need the authorities in Yorkshire to step up and provide what has been promised.”

Click here for more coronavirus-related Yorkshire business news.

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