Torbay Council is lobbying to prevent any unallocated coronavirus-related business grant funds being clawed back by Government.

Covid business fundingCovid business funding

Since May, the council has supported more than 3,300 Torbay businesses with business grants, ranging from £2,500 to £25,000, provided by Government to help local businesses hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Government set out the criteria for grant applications and the counicl was responsible for allocating them to local businesses.

Now the council is lobbying to prevent the remainder of unallocated funds being clawed back by Government.

If the council retains the funding, a number of ways have been proposed to allocate the money to as many businesses as possible, to help benefit local residents and communities.

Cllr Darren CowellCllr Darren Cowell

The initial allocation for the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) scheme and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund (RHLGF) was £47.5million.

Working hard and based on the criteria and data provided, the council allocated £36.8million to 3,051 businesses across Torbay leaving a balance of £10.7million.

Government’s announcement of the Local Authority Discretionary Grant Fund (LADGF) meant Torbay could have received up to £2.3million to allocate to businesses that missed out.

However, Torbay only received £1.7million for the Local Authority Discretionary Grant Fund (LADGF).

As a result, this scheme was heavily oversubscribed as the criteria set out by Government was much more flexible, but funding was limited.

This left many businesses, which could have benefited, without financial support.

The council is now lobbying Government regarding the funding with the aim to be able to retain the full grant funding allocations, have maximum discretion about how the funding is distributed, and get spending deadlines pushed back.

Councillor Steve Darling, leader of the council, said: “We have welcomed the support from Government grants and, as a council, we have worked tirelessly to make sure businesses have been able to receive appropriate funding in order to survive during these unprecedented times.

“However, the enormity of this challenge for Torbay Council cannot be underestimated.

“We are facing massive challenges over the coming months and years – as is the whole country.

“We were recently highlighted in a report produced by the recent Institute for Fiscal Studies as one of the most vulnerable local authorities, particularly as our economy is extremely reliant on the tourism and hospitality sector.

“This is why we feel so strongly about lobbying Government to see if it will reconsider its decision at this critical time.”

Councillor Darren Cowell, deputy leader of the council, said: “If the funding is retained, we propose to allocate the money to as many businesses as possible, to help our local economy, local residents and communities.

“This includes continuing to distribute funds through the Local Authority Discretionary Grant Fund (LADGF) and providing increased financial support to businesses which missed out on the rate paying schemes, and establishing a Back to Business initiative for local business.

“Our proposal also outlines investing in training and skills development, to continue business tracing for non-applicants of the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) scheme and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund (RHLBF) as well as support to our regions leisure and conference centres.”