// Councils ordered to release restart grants to high street businesses “as soon as possible”
// The new funding will allow non-essential retailers in England to access one-off grants of up to £6000
// Other high street businesses in hospitality, leisure, personal care and gym sectors will be eligible for £18,000 grants
Councils have been urged to release restart grants to high street businesses “as soon as possible” to help boost the economy post-lockdown.
From today, eligible businesses will be able to receive up to £18,000 as part of the UK Government’s £5 billion restart grants scheme, which was first announced in the Chancellor’s Budget last month.
In a letter, local authorities have been told by government ministers to “press on” after a warning that it had taken too long for previous funds to be released.
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The new funding will allow non-essential retailers in England, which will be able to exit lockdown and reopen from April 12, to access one-off grants of up to £6000.
Other high street businesses in the hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym sectors will be eligible for one-off grants of up to £18,000.
The letter, signed by small business minister Paul Scully and tourism minister Nigel Huddleston, also urged councils to be “as flexible as possible” in enabling pubs, cafes and restaurants to open outdoor seating areas and host outdoor events in a “Covid-secure manner”.
Scully said: “Government grants have been critical in relieving cash flow pressures and enabling businesses to plan ahead and I am urging councils to deliver these vital funds to where they are needed as soon as possible.”
“We have made extraordinary efforts to stand by small business owners. Now we need to press on and continue getting money to them in good time to ensure that our communities are ready to build back better following the pandemic.”
Huddleston called on local authorities to work “at pace” to distribute the grants.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our tourism sector and a major part of what makes the UK a world-class destination,” he said.
“These vital funds will make a huge difference to businesses in our brilliant hospitality, accommodation and leisure sectors as we build back better from the pandemic.
“I urge councils to work at pace to distribute these grants and look forward to seeing their impact in communities across the country.”
Federation of Small Businesses chairman Mike Cherry outlined the frustration at the speed of funding allocation.
“During this crisis billions of pounds worth of grants have been made available to businesses that desperately need it, yet, frustratingly, so much of it is still yet to be allocated,” he said.
“It’s good that the Government is making it clear to local authorities that ARG grants are genuinely discretionary and that the priority is to get this support delivered.
“Whether that’s to home-based businesses, direct or indirect suppliers to retail, leisure and hospitality, tourism, or others that need support, lots of small firms are in need and it’s vital that this money gets to them.
“Local authorities urgently need to get these grants distributed, to support businesses and jobs in their local area.”
A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: “Councils continue to lead local efforts to support communities and businesses through the pandemic.
“This includes distributing billions to small businesses through previous grant schemes last year.
“These government grants have been a lifeline to small businesses worried about the future.
“Councils have had to come to terms with a rapidly changing landscape and guidance, with different grants applying to different time periods and lockdowns, but are working fast to ensure businesses can receive funding as quickly as possible.”
with PA Wires