'I will just be a statistic': Telford soft play centre boss who is ineligible for £25,000 grant fears for future
The director of a Telford soft play centre said her business could fold because she is not eligible for a £25,000 grant – due to the size of her building.
Belinda Griffiths of Jungleland said that she has accrued £26,000 in debt since closing the doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She said she would be able to pay her furloughed staff and keep the business going if she qualified for the government's Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant scheme, but the £25,000 is only available for businesses with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000.
Because of Jungleland's large site near Trench Lock, which also normally hosts sensory play sessions and a café, it is valued at more than £51,000.
"We are falling through the net," Belinda said. "If I don't get the help then when all this is over, I won't be there. I will just be a statistic.
"I have enough money to last until the end of May. When that is gone I become insolvent.
"I've had my business for 12 years, it's not just a soft play centre. There are free weekly SEN sessions, classes that are all free.
"15,000 babies use the sensory room a year for free – that is going to go.
"Customers like being there, staff like being there.
"[With the grant] I could pay the staff, I could keep afloat and when this is over I could open the doors again.
"My building is huge but the rateable value doesn't define your business. It is fundamentally wrong.
"It is out out of my control, I feel powerless."
'The Government's computer says no'
She said that while the government's furlough scheme was "fantastic", her staff will not be paid until payments are processed in May.
One of her employees of more than a decade has left to become a delivery driver because she cannot pay him, she said.
"Overnight I had to close my door," she added.
"I have 10 full-time staff and 20 part-time. Because I've had 10 days of no trade, I had no money.
"I have a £3,500 a week wage bill.
"I have been in touch with my MP, Lucy Allan, and the leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, Shaun Davies. They have been great but their hands are tied.
"The Government's computer says no.
"It is not just me, other businesses are affected too."
During the pandemic, Jungleland has been turned into a donation point for food for Telford Crisis Support.
Belinda said the response of the public had been "brilliant" and she plans to keep the service going after lockdown measures are lifted if she is able to.