Bristol Council warns that the government hasn’t given them enough grant funding to help small businesses to survive lockdown, according to the Financial Times.
In early May, the government offered £617m for businesses that missed out on the earlier business rates grants scheme. These grants will be distributed to businesses that operate in shared workspaces, market traders, charity shops and bed and breakfasts.
The funding doesn’t stretch far enough for all of those who are eligible, leaving it for the councils to decide who should benefit. A number of tech companies and boutiques operate from shared spaces where business rates are often incorporated into the rent.
Craig Cheney, deputy mayor of Bristol, says that the city had at least 1,700 businesses in shared spaces but only £3.5m to allocate.
“To give them all £10,000 we would need £17m. We have got 400 market traders and we estimate 110 B&Bs. It is going to be hard to administer,” he said.
The city has 21,000 businesses with fewer than 50 employees and only 7,000 have received support so far. It’s opening applications on Monday for two weeks but hasn’t decided on what basis to allocate the money.
Matt Griffith, director of policy at Business West, the chamber of commerce for Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, said:
“Government has, knowingly, severely underfunded this package and overloaded it with other eligible groups — meaning it is bound to lead to thousands of businesses not getting access to support they desperately need.”
“We are talking to many workspace businesses who are likely to be in lockdown for months to come, have fallen through gaps in support and are now worried they are going to go bankrupt.”
The Local Government Association said: “Councils are working to develop their own schemes but will face choices about which businesses to distribute funding to as demand is expected to be higher than the total amount available.
“If this proves to be the case, we will look to work with government to ensure more funding can be provided.”
The Department for Business said: “We want councils to exercise their local knowledge and discretion. This is why we have clear guidance for setting up the funds, but are allowing local authorities to determine how best to support local authorities in the area.”
Where to find your small business coronavirus grant