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UK events firms say 1.4 billion pounds of promised COVID-19 aid not paid out

David Milliken
·2-min read

By David Milliken

LONDON (Reuters) - Struggling small businesses across England have so far missed out on 1.4 billion pounds ($1.94 billion) of aid promised by the government due to delays in processing claims, an events industry trade association said on Monday.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak announced on Oct. 31 that businesses in England which could not operate normally due to COVID would be eligible to receive up to 3,000 pounds ($4,150) a month to help support fixed costs such as rent.

Each of the more than 300 local authorities in England is free to set its own precise eligibility criteria for the 1.6 billion pounds of funding on offer.

The Events Industry Alliance - a trade body whose members hoped to benefit from the funding - said most local councils had only paid a fraction of the money available so far.

Some 31 councils replied to freedom of information requests sent by the group, and on average they reported paying businesses just 12% of the funds allocated by government.

If these councils are typical, then 1.4 billion pounds of government help had not yet been paid out, the EIA said.

Businesses in the events industry, especially suppliers, reported either a lack of response from councils or disputes over their eligibility.

"A source of constant frustration is the running battle we have to endure with our local council to receive the additional support that we are due," said Chris Stewart, managing director of an exhibition stand business, Smart Display Ltd.

Local officials had ignored repeated requests for a 2,000 pound monthly grant, Stewart said.

A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said councils had disbursed almost 12 billion pounds of aid to small firms since the start of the pandemic under various programmes.

"Councils are working fast to ensure businesses eligible for this funding are able to receive it quickly as possible," the spokesperson said.

As a minimum, local authorities need to ensure businesses are solvent and properly registered before paying the grants.

(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Alison Williams)