Hounslow Council Slow to Hand Out Business Grants

One of worst in London for distributing government support to local firms

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak intended funds to support struggling businesses

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Hounslow Council have been ranked in the bottom three of councils in London for the rate at which they are paying out government funded grants to local businesses.

Only 44.2% of the funding had been distributed compared to 94.7% in neighbouring Ealing which had the highest level of disbursement.

Grants are meant to pay £10,000 for businesses whose premises have a rateable value of less than £15,000 or get small business rate relief. Business in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with rateable values of £15,000 to £25,000 can claim £25,000.

The league table released by the Federation of Small Business’s (FSB) London arm shows that only Harrow and Hackney are acting more slowly than Hounslow. The FSB say that these grants should be easy to pay out because the businesses will already have a direct debit facility with the council to pay their rates and this can be used to get the funds to them immediately.

FSB chairman Mike Cherry said, “For many small businesses, these grants are a desperate lifeline during these trying times and it’ s good to see that many local authorities are indeed getting that money to those who need it most.

“However, there are still a large amount of councils yet to give out between 40% and 50% of the money, meaning there are still thousands of small firms waiting for those funds.”

In addition to the grant support available a new 100% government backed fast track loan scheme for small business has been announced this Monday (27 April). Businesses will be able to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 and access the cash within days with loans will be interest free for the first 12 months. The government says businesses can apply online through a short and simple form.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said the new Bounce Back Loans scheme, which will provide loans of up to £50,000, would help bolster the existing package of support available to the smallest businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The scheme has been designed to ensure that small firms who need vital cash injections to keep operating can get finance in a matter of days, and comes alongside the £6 billion awarded in business grants through the job retention scheme and tax deferrals supporting hundreds of thousands of firms.

Councillor Joanna Biddolph, Turnham Green ward and leader of the Conservative Group in Hounslow said,“The government cash grants and the business rates holiday for traders have been widely welcomed. For a number of reasons Hounslow was not as quick off the mark as some other London councils. But I am grateful to officers for responding when we raised this with them and for working hard to catch up. Traders were very worried because so many are in desperate financial circumstances but I can report that I am receiving fewer complaints now that payments have speeded up.”

Cllr Shantanu Rajawat, Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services, said, “Our teams have been working very hard and extremely diligently once we received the necessary information from Government to ensure payments are reaching the businesses which need them.

“About £19.5m has already reached over 1,300 small businesses in the borough, but we know there are many more out there who are eligible for support and who we have contacted, but are yet to hear back from.

“We’ve taken the responsible approach of speaking to each eligible business owner before processing payments to ensure money goes to the right person and the right place. Where we’ve been able to make direct contact, or a business has contacted us, the vast majority of grants have been paid out.

“We’re continuing to reach out to potentially eligible businesses through a range of channels and I encourage them to get in touch and submit their bank details and payment forms as quickly as possible. They should ensure that the correct bank details are submitted on the forms as it’s very important we receive details for the business bank account, and not for any other account.”

A range of support for businesses, including on applying for small business grants, is available on the coronavirus advice section of the Council’s website.

April 29, 2020

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