Sheffield tech boss criticises four-month delay to £20m for small firms to beat pandemic

A Sheffield tech boss has criticised a four-month delay to launch a £20m grant scheme saying ‘firms could have gone under’.

Tuesday, 17th November 2020, 4:45 pm

Karl Austin, managing director of KDA Web Services, said businesses had been waiting months for the small business technology grant.

Announced in July by Simon Clarke, minister for regional growth and local government, it is set to offer up to £5,000 for new technology and professional advice.

Four months later, and with the nation in the middle of its second lockdown and just before the crucial Christmas period, the money has never been more needed, Mr Austin said.

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Karl Austin, managing director of KDA Web Services.

He added: “I’m frustrated for all the small businesses that have missed out on the opportunity to use this money. It would give many a significant boost.

“It’s a long time since it was announced and some firms could have gone under due to the lack of it.

“It’s money we could do with at KDA. We’ve had to change the way we are working. We are doing a lot more video and wanted to upgrade from a laptop to camera for producing training films.

“Many shops have been forced to shut and they could use a grant to set up an e-commerce site for Christmas to help them survive.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak with Simon Clarke MP (left). (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

“It’s affected some of our customers. Those that were funded by advertising saw the bottom fall out of their income and could use £5,000 to diversify.”

KDA, which is 20-years-old this year, runs computer systems behind websites and owns hosting servers and networking infrastructure.

The £20m is from the European Regional Development Fund.

An SCR spokesman said the scheme was announced before details had been finalised with the regions and there were ‘complexities’ due to EU regulations.

He added: “We understand this may be frustrating for businesses and will be contacting those that have registered interest as soon as the grant is open for applications. We expect this to be within the next fortnight.”

A spokesman for Sheffield Council said Barnsley Council was distributing the grants.

He added: “Whilst not responsible for the funding, Sheffield City Council has worked with local partners to prepare the support package and we expect the scheme to launch shortly.”

The Star has contacted the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for comment.

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