Angry Cornwall business owners are facing a “real body blow” due to delays to the distribution of lockdown restart grants.
The restart grant scheme supports businesses in the non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure, personal care and accommodation sectors with a one-off grant to help them reopen safely as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. Many of the businesses were finally allowed to welcome customers back again for the first time in months on Monday (April 12) and had spent money to get up and running again in anticipation.
However, the roll-out of the scheme has been delayed due to various pre-payment checks required by the Government, which Cornwall Council, given responsibility to distribute the funds, has explained is not its fault.
Neil Potter, who runs Cash Your Clutter in Penzance, still hasn’t received his restart grant.
He said: “Unfortunately a lot of businesses expected to receive the grant on April 12 so they spent money on new stock and other preparations. That has obviously left some people in a difficult position now.”
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Neil – who is getting his own show on ITV which you can read about here – said the “vast majority” of businesses in Penzance haven’t received the restart grant yet, which means traders across Cornwall are likely in the same position.
He said: “They will still get it, it’s not the case that they’re not eligible, it’s just now they probably won’t receive it until April 20, April 22 or perhaps even later.”
He added: “We were expecting the restart grant on April 12. Due to Covid we’ve all been planning very hard to survive. I know we’ve already had government grants, but in reality for a lot of businesses in Penzance, the grants we’ve received have just been enough to pay the rent or business rates. They certainly don’t give you any sort of wage or allow money for stock, which is why this grant is so important.”
He continued: “When Cornwall Council says the money will be in your bank by April 12 and their other grants have been paid on time, it’s a fair assumption it will be too. Some businesses haven’t made it, they haven’t got here, and the ones that have are making sure they’re ticking all the right boxes and getting everything done.
“The restart grant was going to be a massive boost to morale. To have the council tell you that you might receive it at the end of the month, but they can’t tell you when, is a real body blow.”
The Front Room Cafe Bar in Penzance wrote that it hadn’t received its restart grant yet either, along with Coddiwomple in Newlyn.
Alan McClary of Choughed to Bits Antiques said: “Has everyone had theirs yet? Mine is still not in my account.”
Panch Puran Restaurant said: “Received an email yesterday saying they’re still working through them and they will be processed within the next 7-10 days.”
A council spokesman said: “The Government paid the funds for the restart grants to Cornwall Council on April 6 and the council made the first batch of payments on April 8, to be with businesses by April 12.
“We paid a total of £65 million to more than 8,000 businesses within two days of receiving the Government funding.
“The Government has required us to make various pre-payment checks and, due to the availability of systems which carry out bank validation checks nationally, this means that we are unable to release the grant funds to some businesses until April 20.
“Further payments will be made on April 15 and April 20 once pre-payment checks have been completed. This means that we will have paid approximately 13,000 businesses within two weeks, without the need for a new application to be made.
“The delay is not due to any Cornwall Council issue and our aim, as it has been consistently since April 2020, is to pay business support grants as quickly as we can.”