LEICESTER’S City Mayor has written once more to the Government urging them to provide more support to local businesses to help them cope with the impact of the city’s extended Covid-19 lockdown.
Last week, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that many of the lockdown measures in place in Leicester, along with neighbouring Oadby and Wigston, were to be extended for a further two weeks.
It is the second time the local lockdown has been extended, dashing the hopes of businesses across the city who were desperate to reopen after months of closure.
Despite the Government initially promising help to city businesses struggling with the extended lockdown, it has subsequently said no further financial help will be available.
Peter Soulsby has now written to Matt Hancock again, setting out the importance of it honouring his original pledge to help hard-hit businesses. No reply has been received to the City Mayor’s initial letter to Mr Hancock, on July 10.
Leicester City Council has so far supported more than 6,000 businesses with grants totalling £70m since March – the city council is calling for the Government to allow it to use the remaining £10m of unallocated business grants to help struggling city businesses.
City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “The health secretary, Matt Hancock, originally promised us that the Government would help businesses in the city, but now says they won’t.
“Many businesses are finding themselves in a dire financial situation and need some certainty to know whether they have a future.
“Those businesses – and the council – are growing tired of waiting for the Government to deliver on its original promise of help.
“Clearly, using this £10million of business grant funding that hasn’t been allocated could help provide immediate aid to struggling businesses.
“We already have the local knowledge, businesses’ details and the payment system set up – we are just waiting for the Government for permission to use that money, to which so far we’ve received no response.
“Businesses desperately need help and support at this extremely difficult time, and yet again I find myself asking the Government to deliver on their original earlier promises to provide that help.”
The £10m money is part of £85m which was earmarked for Leicester by the Government’s department for Businesses, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for both national and discretionary grants schemes. It has not been claimed and rules state it should be returned to the Government.
Peter Soulsby added: “This money has already been paid to us by BEIS and sits in our bank account. Government do not have to pay us any further money to support businesses, we simply need permission to spend the funds we have.
“We have come up with a plan where we could provide more help to Leicester businesses by extending both the national and our discretionary grants schemes, as well as supporting those excluded from the national scheme – particularly factories, manufacturing and independent retail, hospitality and leisure.
“Extending these schemes rather than starting a new one means we could pay money out quickly – if the Government will let us.”
Any new information on support for businesses will be added to the city council’s website, where existing information on grants is also available. Click on Business Support Grant Funding at www.leicester.gov.uk/coronavirus