Millions of pounds paid in Covid-19 support but hundreds of Wigan businesses still missing out

Figures collected by the JPI Media Data Unit show 745 businesses in the borough are missing out on crucial financial aid.
Lockdown is continuing to affect the high street with businesses needing supportLockdown is continuing to affect the high street with businesses needing support
Lockdown is continuing to affect the high street with businesses needing support

Wigan Council has paid out £58,175,000 of the £80m in its initial allocation to help small and medium-sized businesses during the coronavirus crisis.

That, though, leaves some £22,685,000 still to be dished out.

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And the percentage of the allocation left to be distributed is the biggest in Greater Manchester.

Wigan has a large number of small businesses, with 5,745, the second-highest total in Greater Manchester, identified as potentially eligible for support.

With the high street still feeling the effects of lockdown and social distancing measures, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said it was “vital” funding is distributed.

Wigan Council said it had acted quickly to give out as much of the funding as possible but also said it needed eligible businesses to come forward and urged them to seek assistance.

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As of June 28, local authorities in England had paid out £10.57bn through the Small Business Grants Fund and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund schemes.

Wigan received the second-biggest allocation in Greater Manchester and has got money into the hands of 5,000 businesses, a payment rate of 87 per cent.

However, so far 71.9 per cent of Wigan’s allocation has been paid out and this is the lowest rate in the city-region.

The Greater Manchester figures closely mirror the number of businesses needing assistance, with councils having the largest number of companies to identify and help and the biggest allocations to dish out having the most still to find as well as the highest numbers helped.

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In percentage terms local authorities with smaller allocations have generally dished more of it out as well.

Lesley O’Halloran, director of customer and culture at Wigan Council, said: “We have been on the front foot ever since the government announced the business grant support fund making sure businesses were fully aware of the support available.

“An online webform was established from the outset which meant all businesses on the business rates database could get in touch and claim the grant they were eligible to and we were one of the first councils in the country to start paying the grants.

“To date we have supported more than 5,500 businesses with £62 million in grant funding, supporting more than 87 per cent of our businesses.

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“Also, since its inception in June, we have also provided more than £2 million to over 350 businesses excluded from the main grant scheme through the Discretionary Business Grant Scheme.

“As a borough we have a proportionally high number of small businesses, and we are determined to maximise the grant funding allocation and the financial help this provides. Our teams have continued working to identify new eligible businesses to ensure as many are helped as possible as well as re-contacting businesses yet to apply with application invitations.

“The council’s business engagement team has been working with and offering support to hundreds of businesses over the past three months to advise on the support that is available to them providing that much needed guidance in what is a stressful and uncertain time for our business sector.”

Wigan Council initially contacted all the businesses on its database to ask them if they wanted to apply for the funding if they felt they were eligible, but beyond that have relied on SMEs getting in touch themselves.

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FSB national chair Mike Cherry said: “Every day that goes by for a small business without those cash grants is another day worrying about the future of their livelihoods.

“That is why it is essential that councils get these funds issued as soon as possible and into the hands of small firms before it’s too late.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said it was working with councils to ensure funds get to “as many eligible small business owners as possible”.

The spokesperson added: “We urge councils to continue to work at pace so that all eligible businesses receive the grants they’re entitled to.”

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Wigan Council is now encouraging businesses yet to receive grants to speak to the town hall.

The leader, Coun David Molyneux, said: “There will be some businesses in the borough that haven’t yet applied or been engaged with the council, so it’s those businesses we need to reach.

“The bottom line is, we do not know how long this funding will be available to us. As lockdown measures ease and with more businesses beginning to reopen, these schemes could be closed by the government at any time.

“With this in mind, we want to distribute as much of this funding as possible while we are still able to.

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“We’re concerned that some businesses might not apply for the funding because they think they’re not eligible, when actually they could be.

“We’re asking all small businesses in the borough to get in touch if they haven’t yet received grants.

“We can go through the criteria with them and will let them know more about the process. And, if it turns out that a business is not eligible, we will always signpost to further support that may be more suitable.”

BEIS told the JPIMedia Data Unit that there is currently no cut-off date for the coronavirus grant funding in England.

Wigan Council has extended the applications deadline to July 31. Find out more at