Wigan borough Conservatives raise concerns over distribution of Covid Restart Grants to local firms
The borough’s leading Conservatives have written to the town hall following “concerning reports” about local firms not receiving post-pandemic recovery grants.
Leigh MP James Grundy and Orrell Councillor Michael Winstanley the party’s leader in the council chamber, have written to chief executive, Alison McKenze-Folan, after receiving feedback from some eligible businesses which have experienced delays in receiving their much-needed grants.
In March this year, the Government announced that it would be launching the Restart Grant, to provide financial support for businesses in the non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure, beauty, and accommodation sectors with a one-off grant, to reopen safely as Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
The Government launched this scheme on April1, with the responsibility being placed upon local authorities to distribute this funding to businesses in need.
But Mr Grundy and Coun Winstanley said they had received “concerning reports” from various companies across the borough that, unlike businesses in other local authorities in the North West, had not yet received their Restart Grant, despite being eligible.
In their letter to the chief executive, the pair said they were “becoming increasingly concerned that the distribution of Restart Grants across the Wigan Borough is taking considerably longer than other local authorities.”
Their letter said: “Whilst we are grateful for the work of Wigan Council throughout the pandemic, and understand the pressures that the Council are under, we believe that the distribution of this funding should be a top priority.
“Therefore, we urge you to focus more resources into speeding up this process, and to also create an online application form, so that as many businesses as possible can receive this much-needed funding as soon as possible as we progress through this crucial stage of lockdown easing.”
Becca Heron, director for economy and skills at Wigan Council said: “We’re pleased to say that we’ve now distributed more than £11m in Restart Grants, supporting 1,600 borough businesses during this uncertain time.
“Though the scheme officially launched on 1 April, it was subject to mandatory pre-payment checks on a particular system, which was only made available to local authorities from 12 April.
“Furthermore, guidance to ensure the accurate award of grants was only released on 15th April.
“As a result of our proactive approach using previous application and payment data, we were able to make our first payments of the Restart Grants on 19th April.
“We fully appreciate how vital this funding is to our businesses and want to ensure we maximise the level of support we allocate. In light of this, we will shortly undertake a letter drop to all businesses we have on record who have not yet responded to email information requests.
“Throughout the pandemic, Wigan Council has worked hard to distribute all grant funding as quickly as possible, allocating over £120 million in grant funding overall.
“Our commitment to supporting the local economy through this time is stronger than ever and we will continue to distribute funds as soon as possible in order to ease pressures for those who need it most.”
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