CLAIMS for around £9million worth of financial help have been dealt with so far from small businesses across Leicester which are struggling from the loss of trade caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Staff at Leicester City Council worked throughout the Easter Bank Holiday weekend to ensure applications for a share of the £85million pot of Government cash were dealt with and processed as quickly as possible.
The claims system had gone live in the middle of last week but crashed because of the huge amount of demand from businesses using it.
Between Good Friday and Easter Monday, the city council’s Revenues and Benefits team processed 700 claims, equating to £9million in funding, which will be in businesses’ bank accounts towards the end of this week.
In all, the city council is working with about 6,000 businesses across the city to ensure they can access the package of financial help totalling £85million is Small Business Grant funding, and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure grant funding.
Upgraded payment systems were put into place to prevent fraud and ensure that money could be allocated safely and correctly, paired with an online application form to ensure the process of applying is as straightforward and quick as possible.
Smaller businesses who get business rate relief can expect to apply for £10,000, while larger businesses who have been forced to close their doors could get up to £25,000.
The funding – which is the largest amount in the East Midlands and one of the 10 highest city allocations in the UK – was formally announced last week. Responsibility was handed to local councils across the UK to organise the distribution of the funding to help hard-hit businesses to survive the current crisis.
Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “While we understand completely the urgency with which businesses across the city need this financial lifeline, it has been vitally important that we make it available in a way which prevents fraudulent applications.
“The level of need for this money was so high that our application system went down shortly after it was launched, causing more frustration and delay.
“However thanks to hard work of our Revenues and Benefits team working throughout the Easter weekend we have processed over 700 legitimate claims, with the money due to be with these businesses in the next two days.
“We are continuing to process claims received, with more money scheduled to reach businesses every day over the next week. We will work with businesses to ensure this money gets to where it is needed as quickly as possible, in line with the rules set by the Government.”
The Small Business Grant and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant funding are part of a wider package of help and support being made available to businesses across Leicester and Leicestershire who are concerned about their future.
The website of the Business Gateway Growth Hub – a support network for businesses in the city, run by the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) – is being updated daily to give employers details of how to apply for financial help, business support, help for self-employed people and accessing benefits.
The pages bring together the most relevant national Government information with the guidance and advice of various teams working across the city centre and beyond, focusing on retail, hospitality, tourism, manufacturing, service and other sectors.
Leicester City Council is working with the LLEP – an organisation involving the city, county and district councils and local business leaders – to coordinate a citywide information service and has a steadily-growing team of advisers already liaising with businesses, who can all be accessed via the Business Gateway Growth Hub.
The LLEP has made a wide range of help and advice available online, and has been working with small local businesses concerned about their future.
Information including up to date news on what help packages are being made available both on a national and local level, to businesses struggling with the impact on their trade and staff is being made available.
Up-to-date information on help for businesses is available at: www.bizgateway.org.uk
To find out more or apply for a Small Business Grant or Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant, visit: www.leicester.gov.uk/businessrates