Council asked to act after businesses fall through support loophole...
Council asked to act after businesses fall through support loophole
Four Bury St Edmunds town centre businesses who’ve been left unable to claim Government support when ordered to close under Coronavirus rules are having their cases championed by the town’s Business Improvement District (BID).
The Chief Executive of Our Bury St Edmunds, which runs the BID, Mark Cordell has written to the leader of West Suffolk Council – as the authority is responsible for handing out the Government’s grants to affected businesses.
In his letter to Councillor John Griffiths Mr Cordell explains that while he acknowledges the grants for small businesses were issued promptly and efficiently by West Suffolk Council – four independent town centre businesses have effectively been ‘punished’ by the Government because of their building size and success of their business. The three pubs, The Tavern, The Masons Arms and The One Bull together with the town’s language school BLS English, have been starved of financial support that others in the town have received because of what Mr Cordell describes as ‘an arbitrary decision by the Government.’
The Council is being asked to consider allocating some funding from the Discretionary Fund to the four businesses. Mr Cordell explained: “This – as its name suggests – is funding that can be awarded at the discretion of local authorities. Research into how it has been spent elsewhere suggests that a number of councils have supported language schools and in Cheltenham the local authority introduced a local priority for independent hospitality businesses that had missed out on other available grants due to their rateable value. Although West Suffolk Council is awarding the grants, the money has been provided by the Government and so I am sure councils would want to see the cash being spent to help their local economies rather than have to hand back unallocated funds.”
Ben Logan Principal of BLS English said: “To be excluded from a scheme put in place to support tourism businesses due to a lack of understanding is hugely disappointing. In the absence of income this year and potentially in future years we are hanging on by a gossamer thread. We have no income because in the current climate no students can travel to the UK. All fees paid in advance have had to be refunded.
"Without this support these businesses will simply not survive, resulting in billions of future revenue being lost. The furlough scheme has been of huge support, but many businesses now urgently need the rates relief support to weather the storm."
Mr Cordell added: “These four businesses make a significant contribution to the success of the town centre. Hospitality has grown considerably in the past ten years to the extent that Bury St Edmunds is now regarded as the county’s foodie capital. The language school brings in many overseas visitors which in turn support other parts of our local economy such as people who provide accommodation, activity leaders and tourist attractions.”
The most recent figures published on the Government’s website suggest that just over a week ago West Suffolk Council had not awarded the full amount of available funding to local businesses and the authority has been advising those hoping to receive a grant to apply by the end of this week.