Struggling businesses in Bedford have received tens of millions of pounds through schemes to help them survive the Covid-19 crisis, figures reveal.
But with just days left for local firms to claim millions more in untouched funds, the Local Government Association says councils should be able to keep any leftover cash to revive local economies.
In March, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 for small and medium-sized businesses to support them through the pandemic.
Police step up patrols after Bedford car workshop broken into more than 35 TIMES
Burst water main on outskirts of Bedford causes concern
Three members of the same Bedford family die in Italian road crash
‘Threatening and violent’ beggar banned from Bedford and ANY Tesco in town
Bedford commuters: Only travel if absolutely necessary this weekend
Bedford Borough Council had paid £27.5 million to business properties in the area by August 9, the latest Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy figures show – 84 per cent of the money available.
But this means that £5.4 million was yet to reach local enterprises.
The cash is provided for a business property so firms with multiple outlets can receive more than one payment.
According to the LGA, the Government has told councils it will shut the schemes – the Small Business Grants Fund and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund – on August 28.
It added that any unclaimed funds will need to be returned.
Councils across England had paid out 88% of the £12.3 billion in funding by August 9, which means £1.5 billion was still available.
Richard Watts, chairman of the LGA’s resources board, said: “The Government needs to commit to redistributing any unspent resources from the original schemes, including any clawed back, to councils to be spent on local efforts to help further support businesses and reboot local economies.”
A third Local Authority Discretionary Grant Fund worth up to £25,000 was launched in May for small and micro businesses that are not eligible for the other schemes, which also closes on August 28.
Local data on the fund was not available, but across England, £239 million had been paid out through the fund by July 5.
The Federation of Small Businesses is calling for another round of the discretionary grant – worth up to £617 million – to be issued to councils.
“For small businesses, councils and government, now is not the time to delay,” said the group’s national chairman Mike Cherry.
“With some sectors still struggling to reopen, local lockdowns curtailing efforts by firms to get back to business and the spectre of a potential second wave of the virus, we must act now and take the necessary steps needed to prop up small firms who are the backbone of the economy.”
A BEIS spokeswoman said: “Around 92% of eligible small businesses nationally have now received government grants totalling almost £11 billion, as part of a wider package of support for businesses worth £160 billion. We are working with local councils to ensure funds get to as many eligible small business owners as possible.
“Businesses that are eligible but have not yet received grant funding should speak to their local council as soon as possible.”