Criticism over Bedford Borough Council decision to award Oakley Hunt £10k in coronavirus emergency support

The money was aimed at struggling businesses

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 4:19 pm

A decision by Bedford Borough Council to award the Oakley Hunt £10,000 to help it during the pandemic has been criticised by anti-hunt campaigners.

Oakley Hunt was awarded the money after the council said it fitted the criteria required for the Small Business Grant Fund, which was aimed at saving jobs and helping struggling businesses.

The hunt itself said the money was used to "enable professional hunt staff to maintain high standards of animal welfare" throughout the pandemic.

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But Rob Pownall, founder of Keep The Ban, did not agree.

He said: “Families across the country are suffering incredible hardship and having to make tough sacrifices due to Covid-19. Why are hard-working people now being made to subsidise hunts? Taxpayers money should be going to help local people, not funnelled into the pockets of those who go out to kill wildlife.

"However, it is important to understand that the decision to give funding to hunts is not a localised one and that councils like Bedford Borough Council have provided the grants in line with Government eligibility criteria and so if the business is in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief they are also eligible for a Small Business Grant for Covid-19," he added.

It said businesses could apply for a business support grant via the council’s website if they met the government’s qualifying criteria.

And when Bedford Today asked Bedford Borough Council why it had given the money to Oakley Hunt, a spokesperson said: “All companies and organisations that received Government grant payments did so based on the criteria of the scheme that they applied for.

"The council distributed this Government funding to companies and organisations in line with Government criteria and guidance.”

A spokesperson from the Oakley Hunt said: “All rateable businesses that met the specific conditions for funding were given grants under the scheme which was welcomed by the hunt and enabled our professional hunt staff to maintain high standards of animal welfare throughout this incredibly difficult period.”

Facebook users on the Keep The Ban page did not agree with the decision.

One user said: "I would definitely refuse to pay my council tax. This is unreal."

Another said: "The money should never have been given, fox hunting is a sport not a business."

While another added: "Appalling misuse of public money."

The Hunting Act was approved in 2003 and came into law the following year.

Under the law, you can use dogs to simulate hunting, for example drag or trail hunting, and can use up to two dogs to chase foxes out of hiding if the fox is causing damage to your property or the environment.