Kirklees Council told to speed up grant payments for struggling businesses

Millions of pounds of Government cash have been given out to businesses in Kirklees – but the speed of payments has been criticised as too slow.

By Tony Earnshaw , Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 24th April 2020, 11:00 am

Kirklees Council confirmed that it has received more than 7,000 applications for help as part of the COVID-19 emergency business support measures.

As of April 17 it had made 2,360 individual payments totalling £26.15m.

However according to the website gov.uk, which published details of grant funding allocations by local authority in England, Kirklees Council has received £113, 650,000.

Sign up to our daily Dewsbury Reporter Today newsletter

Grants have been paid out to Kirklees businesses

Now the authority has been urged to speed up the distribution of money to businesses that have been forced to close.

The council has previously been criticised for its poor dissemination of information.

Kirklees Council says it is treating applications as “an absolute priority”.

Last month one woman said it had been impossible to find details online of how the council would assist small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access Government grants.

Karen Duggan, managing director of Boxberrie in Holmfirth, said businesses like hers needed information and timescales.

She added: “Payment will be coming mid to end next week. While that is great news there must be companies out there absolutely on the brink and coming to month end too.

“[Payment will arrive] in three-and-a-half weeks (24 days to be precise) for us, against a Government promise of payments early April.

“I know friends with businesses in Harrogate, Leeds and York and they all got theirs last week.”

“Businesses must be desperate,” said Coun Bernard McGuin, who represents Almondbury for the Conservatives.

“I have been contacted by local businesses who say they have been waiting around and wanting to know when the money is going to come.

“Most are in the same position: they want to know when they’re going to get the help that the government promised them?

“It seems like a long time since the cash was announced. But these are grants, they’re not means tested.

“A lot of these businesses have not got income coming in at all. They’re really worried about their futures when they have no cash flow.

“They need that money as soon as possible.

“I don’t want to have a go at the council but it needs to be faster.”

He surmised that a combination of high application numbers, paperwork and key staff working from home could have caused delays in making payments during the health emergency.

His colleague Coun Martyn Bolt (Con, Mirfield) said Kirklees had been slower to act than neighbouring authorities such as Calderdale and Bradford.

He urged Kirklees to act faster to support businesses in trouble and said: “It comes back to communication.

“If they communicated this information better people would be less frustrated.

“There’s nothing worse than not knowing.”

A Kirklees Council spokesperson said: “We have received over 7,600 applications for grant support, which represents around 80% of those businesses who are eligible.

“We’re working around the clock to process these so we can pay the money out as soon as possible.

“We know businesses are relying on this money and we’d like to reassure them that we are treating this as an absolute priority.

“At the same time, this is Government funding and it is inevitable that some checks and balances are required to ensure it is being spent only on those businesses that are eligible. We are keeping these to a minimum.”

Businesses can find information here: www.kirklees.gov.uk/coronavirusbusiness