An MP has slammed the local council over ‘millions’ in government funding he claims has not yet been distributed to businesses needing support during the coronavirus pandemic.
Bury North MP James Daly has hit out at Bury Council for ‘holding’ approximately £4.89m provided by the government to prop up local businesses that it is yet to hand out.
Since December 2020, the Labour-run council has received a total of £5.7m from the government in Additional Restrictions Grant , claims the Conservative MP.
The grant is designed to let councils use their knowledge of the local economy and discretion to provide financial help to businesses in the areas in the best possible way.
But as of February 26, the MP says the council has distributed just £848,000 of the cash from the grant available to 361 separate businesses.
The council has responded, saying that over the course of the pandemic, it has handed out almost £18m in 6,378 support payments for businesses, ‘with further grants being made at pace all the time’.
In relation to grants such as the Additional Restrictions Grant, the authority says it has focused on creating a ‘strategic’ support system ‘based on evidence from the local business community’, targeting small businesses that ‘might fall through the cracks’ rather than simply ‘handing out cash’.
But the Tory backbencher still says the distribution is not happening quickly enough, commenting: “With the Prime Minister’s announcement of the road map out of restrictions we must take immediate action locally to support as many traders as possible within Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington.
“This money needs to be paid out now to ensure every business has the best chance of surviving lockdown and is able to thrive going forward.
“We must ensure that priority is given based on need and to those who have not received a grant previously. This opportunity must not be wasted as our local businesses need financial help now, not in a few weeks or months. This support will protect jobs and important sectors of the local economy.
“There is no justification for millions of pounds to remain in Bury Council’s bank account and I hope there will be no further delay in these monies being distributed.”
A council spokesperson said: “We have been working hard to deliver all of the different local restrictions grants quickly to businesses who needed them.
“Unfortunately, in some circumstances, we have been restricted by the Government’s criteria on businesses that are eligible for the grants.
“Nevertheless, where possible, we have adapted the criteria for discretionary grants to respond to our own local circumstances and business needs, with a focus on on-going support that will see them through crisis and into recovery.
“Almost £18m of the Government’s allocation for supporting businesses throughout the restrictions has already been paid out in Bury, with further grants being made at pace all the time.”