Anger over delays to business support grants

Businesses in Grange Park
Businesses in Grange Park

Enfield Council urged to pay up to save local firms, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Businesses are warning they could face financial ruin over Enfield Council’s failure to distribute grant funding.

Owners of hairdressing salons and other firms that are still shut down during the current Covid-19 lockdown say they have not received any payments for months.

The government announced several grant schemes last year to help firms forced to close due to Covid-19 restrictions. But business owners said they were on the brink of collapse after the council failed to send them the money – while firms in other boroughs had received their grants.

A council spokesperson said £4million had been handed out to 1,400 Enfield businesses since November.

Craig Rowley, who owns Beau Hair Specialists in Vera Avenue, Grange Park, said: “We have not received anything from the council for eight weeks. We have got rent to pay. It is ridiculous.

“We’ve had to get a loan out from the bank to make sure the business doesn’t go under.

“If we don’t get anything from the council in the next couple of weeks, we don’t know if we’re going to survive.”

James Whitaker, who owns a hairdressing salon in Lancaster Road, said: “I could be closed before we reopen from lockdown. I’m now down to literally the last few quid. I am going to have to start borrowing money from my in-laws.

“The frustrating thing is, I’m already booked up for when we do reopen – but it is still potentially another six weeks until we do. The government is helping out small businesses, but the council is not delivering it.”

Allan Millwood, who is head of Hertford Road Retail Association, said: “We’ve got businesses along Hertford Road which are pretty much going to go bankrupt any minute.

“Some are so far behind on their rent payments, and they are not getting any help at all.

“We know Enfield Council is sitting on the money. Every other borough is paying out.”

All three business owners said they had been told by the council that the delays in distributing the money were down to software problems – but they also said it was hard to get information from the local authority.

Conservative group leader Joanne Laban said businesses had been contacting councillors to complain about the time taken by the council to award the government grants.

Cllr Laban said: “I’m concerned the Labour administration just does not get it that our local businesses are struggling due to the pandemic and are desperate for this funding.

“I understand the council wishes to make sure the money is going to the right businesses, but they should have been quicker than they have been.”

An Enfield Council spokesperson said: “Between the second national lockdown and 1st March, Enfield Council has organised the payment of more than £4m in grants to 1,400 businesses in the borough.

“These payments have come from the various [government funded] local restrictions support grants. Any businesses required to close due to the national restrictions that began on 5th January will also be automatically paid a further ‘top-up’ grant from the council.

“The additional restrictions grant (ARG), a discretionary grant, will be open to applications from businesses in the non-essential retail, leisure, hospitality and events supply chains that either pay business rates or a commercial rent.

“This is a very significant part of Enfield’s business base, supporting a high number of jobs and performing a vital function within London’s economy.

“We appreciate the pressure on businesses and are working to get these grants out as soon as we can. The ARG [is] available from [this] week.

“We also want to support micro businesses which are not eligible for existing grants. Enfield Council launched a small business hardship fund and the money raised will be distributed to the borough’s smallest businesses to help them through these toughest of times.”

Applications for the ARG opened on yesterday. For more information:
Visit
new.enfield.gov.uk/services/business-and-licensing/covid-19-guidance-for-employers/#2