Local authorities have blamed government for the slow payment of Covid-19 grants during lockdown, with businesses still waiting for cash.
Although government says it has paid out the £4.6bn worth of Covid-19 grants to be distributed by all 314 local authorities over the current national lockdown, it still has to release of the £12bn worth of support first offered last year.
There have been 10 different tranches of funding to keep small businesses going through local-tier restrictions established in October and the one-month lockdown for England that ran from November 5.
The schemes also cover support for different regional restrictions in December and the current lockdown in England, which is expected to run until at least February 22.
The Local Government Association says that councils have also been struggling to distribute the money, due to increased state-aid compliance issues and vetting applicants for fraud. They have focused on getting larger amounts for January’s closures out the door, as opposed to last year’s smaller grants.
But businesses still awaiting grants say they may not still be in business by the time money is finally released.
The British Beer and Pub Association estimates that around three quarters of so-called “wet pubs”, which focus on selling drinks, had not received the £1,000 grant promised by the government in December.
Half of pubs were still waiting for support offered in November’s lockdown.
Craig Beaumont, external affairs chief at the Federation of Small Businesses, criticised the “postcode lottery” for grants.
“Some councils have done well, but others are taking weeks or months,” he told the Financial Times. “Councils are afraid of making mistakes and want government clarity, while the government insists they should get the money out.”