Council leader asks Chancellor to free up financial support for firms
The leader of Telford & Wrekin Council is asking the Government to help it provide more funding support to hundreds of businesses yet to receive any financial help to deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Councillor Shaun Davies has written to two cabinet ministers asking that local authorities be allowed to provide support to more businesses, through their local discretionary grant schemes.
He asks that councils be allowed to use an 'underspend' of business grant money already received from Government, which current rules prevent councils from doing so.
In Telford and Wrekin’s case, this would be worth more than £6 million for borough business – in contrast, the funding it received for its discretionary scheme was just below £1.5 million.
The letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick highlights that Telford & Wrekin is among the top performers in the country for paying out business grants as quickly as possible, however, the criteria for these mean that many businesses have yet to receive any help.
The council has, so far, distributed £28.5 million to 2,395 borough businesses that met Government qualifying criteria for the national scheme.
It has also provided and widely promoted a dedicated hotline for all local businesses to access information and advice.
This has seen more than 5,000 businesses make contact and all businesses in the borough directly written to in March and May to promote the support available to them.
The council’s revenues and business support team has also been working seven-days-a-week to process grant applications.
From the Government’s discretionary grant scheme launched in May, the council received £1.47 million for small businesses which had fallen outside the national scheme criteria.
This has now been fully allocated to a further 262 businesses.
But Councillor Davies has raised concerns that many businesses in the borough have not yet been able to access any grants under either scheme, particularly the self-employed and many of the borough’s small and medium sized manufacturing companies.
He said: “I am asking the ministers to take a sensible and pragmatic approach and allow us to help those that so far we’ve not been able to.
“Most councils are, like us, being made to sit on an underspend in business support funding they received.
"This is money we’d love to boost our local discretionary scheme and put to work straight away helping firms who desperately need this to survive.
“This is a critical time in supporting recovery and doing all we can to stave off what we fear will otherwise be a huge surge in unemployment as businesses have to make hard decisions at the end of furlough.”
Details of the support available to businesses during the pandemic are available at coronavirus.enterprise-telford.co.uk
The council’s business support hotline can be reached on 01952 383838, between 9am to 5pm on weekdays.