Thousands of Sheffield businesses are yet to receive Covid-19 grants

Thousands of Sheffield businesses have not received cash as part of a scheme to help them stay afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic, figures reveal.

Monday, 27th April 2020, 6:58 pm
Updated Monday, 27th April 2020, 6:59 pm

Business groups are urging councils to act swiftly to stop companies from going under and those they employ from losing their jobs.

In March, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 for small and medium-sized businesses to support them during the coronavirus crisis.

Sheffield City Council was yet to pay 6,111 business properties flagged as qualifying for help by April 19, the latest Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy figures show.

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Sheffield Town Hall

This means only 35% of the 9,334 properties earmarked had been sent grants – well below the national average of 50%.

Firms in the area have received £37.8 million so far, from an allocated pot of £113.1 million.

Councils across England had paid out grants worth £6 billion to 484,000 business properties across the nation by April 19 – just under half of the money made available.

The Federation of Small Businesses praised the councils that are getting money into the hands of firms quickly.

National chair Mike Cherry added: “However, in other areas barely 10 to 20% of the grants have been issued.

“It’s those areas that must act now if they want to see small businesses survive on their local high streets when we reach the other side of this crisis.”

The British Beer and Pub Association warned pubs and other hospitality businesses could be among the last to see restrictions relaxed, making support even more critical.

Chief executive Emma McClarkin said councils that are lagging behind need to learn lessons from the best performers, and get help to businesses “as a matter of urgency”.

She added: “Otherwise, pubs will close for good and the thousands of people they employ will lose jobs.”

Winchester City Council in Hampshire had the best record – it was the only local authority to pay grants to all business properties deemed eligible.

Meanwhile, Birmingham City Council had only paid 7% of those in line for assistance, according to the data.

Richard Watts, chairman of the Local Government Association’s resources board, said councils have worked hard to distribute the cash, with many setting up dedicated teams.

“Councils know these grants are a vital lifeline to businesses who may be struggling and worried about the future,” he added.

“It has been a big task to set up and administer this new scheme in a matter of weeks but councils will continue to work at pace to ensure eligible businesses receive this vital funding as quickly as possible.”

The government support takes two forms. The Small Business Grants Fund is worth £10,000 and available to those who ordinarily also qualify for relief on their business rates due to their small size.

The Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund is open to those which would have qualified for a 100% reduction in business rates under the previously announced Expanded Retail Discount scheme as of March 11.

Grants are provided for a business property so firms with multiple outlets can receive more than one payment.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “I am very grateful to local authorities who have been working flat out to ensure these vital funds get to hard-pressed small business owners.

“Government is doing everything we can to support individual councils and help ensure that these grants reach local firms as soon as possible.

“I urge everyone to keep working at pace to get the money where it is needed quickly.”

The South Yorkshire coronavirus death toll is close to surpassing 400 with 97 more cases confirmed on Saturday.

The latest figures show that Sheffield has 1,901 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 179 hospital patients have died – an increase of 45 within a 24 hour reporting period.

Doncaster has 374 confirmed cases of Covid-19. 22 deaths have been reported in the past day, bringing the town’s total death toll to to 74.

Rotherham has reported 589 cases of the virus and has seen 82 deaths- an increase of 16.

While Barnsley has 544 cases and has seen its death toll rise to 61- an increase of 14.

This brings the total confirmed case rate within the county to 3,406 and the total death toll to 396.

The figures are provided by Public Health England as part of its daily breakdown- however, they could be much higher as they do not include deaths which took place in care homes or within the community.

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