‘Lack of urgency’ in handing out Covid-19 grants to SMEs, says Colliers

Colliers International said it is concerned about the “lack of urgency” many local authorities are showing in paying out “much needed” grants to businesses.

Colliers said that according to the latest data published by the Government, five weeks after the grants were announced 38% of the amount allocated to local authorities to pay to eligible businesses has not yet been paid out.

The Covid-19 Grants, announced on 24 March were designed to cover a business’s fixed costs and promised:

  • A grant of £10,000 for all businesses in receipt of small business rates relief or rural rates relief.
  • Businesses in retail, leisure and hospitality to receive a grant of £10,000 if they have a rateable value up to and including £15,000 and a grant of £25,000 with property with a rateable value between £15,000.01 and less than £51,000. This is paid per property.

According to Colliers, the council with the biggest allocation of grants to hand out is Cornwall Council – with £281m to allocate to 23,828 properties (of which it has allocated £194.825 million or 69%).

Colliers said this implies that there are more small businesses and retailers claiming rates relief in Cornwall than in any other part of the country.

Additionally, it said that although Westminster City Council “appears to have been efficient” handing out 93% of its grants, it only had £78m to distribute to a total of only 4,536 businesses – of which £72.79m has been given out.

Colliers said the City of London’s numbers were “even more extraordinary” – with only 968 businesses eligible for the grants or £14.74m to allocate, of which 81% has been distributed.

John Webber, head of business rates at Colliers International, said: “The implication here is that there are more businesses eligible for grants in Cornwall than there are in the City of London and Westminster combined.

“If there was ever evidence that more small businesses and retailers in London are falling between the cracks in the process of grant allocations – this is it.”

He added: “Many have been cut out of consideration because the criteria for grants is based on business rates and given the high rents (and thus high rates) in London, many retail and hospitality businesses in London do not qualify for relief at all, whereas they probably would do if they were based in other part of the country.

“Those smaller retailers and hospitality companies are the lifeblood of the economy and in these difficult times, many are struggling to stay solvent. Without the grants on offer, even more will go under.  We urge Local Authorities to dish out the grants more efficiently and quickly.”

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