"The furlough income scheme isn't really enough," says Ampthill beauty business owner

She tells council it's wrong to assume companies with low profits have low overheads as well

Monday, 22nd February 2021, 5:09 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd February 2021, 5:10 pm

Stories of financial hardship and warnings of people taking their own lives emerged at a meeting to assess a council's policy for distributing government Covid grants to small businesses in Central Bedfordshire.

Businesses which received grants or help from other schemes have been excluded by Central Bedfordshire Council, an extraordinary corporate resources overview and scrutiny committee meeting heard.

Claire Woodcraft, who runs a beauty business in Ampthill, said: "The furlough income scheme isn't really enough to cover personal expenses, let alone support a business as well.

"To exclude people is effectively asking them to stop putting food on the table for their families and instead use the money to keep their businesses afloat"

"To exclude people is effectively asking them to stop putting food on the table for their families and instead use the money to keep their businesses afloat.

"The eligibility criteria doesn't account for the overheads when starting a new business, which massively reduce income in the first few years.

"It would be wrong to assume that companies with low profits have low overheads as well.

"You cannot refuse to help businesses which were thriving before Covid, but are now facing closure, with no way of helping themselves."

Emma Sykes, representing a group of hair and beauty businesses which have had little or no support since March, said: "It's been 332 days since the start of the pandemic.

"Delaying financial help to these businesses is having a really devastating effect.

"The reality is we're selling assets and our debts are mounting.

"The real impact of badly missing this mark is these businesses will go under in the next few weeks."

Conservative Arlesey councillor David Shelvey explained: "We're opening it out by incorporating all business types, whether a limited company or a self-employed person working from home.

"We're trying to find an equitable scheme within the government guidelines.

"Those self-employed and small businesses haven't had help to date.

"We've no idea of the number of businesses that qualify and we've a limited amount of money," added councillor Shelvey, who's the executive member for corporate resources.

"We won't keep back any funding for later this year. The government has said it should last until 2022.

"This money should be going out to businesses as soon as possible."

Independent Flitwick councillor Gareth Mackey said: "This is something which affects people in their everyday outlook. I know people are losing their businesses as we speak.

"And I'm told people are even taking their lives because they've had absolutely no help so far.

"We should use the interpretation of the grant scheme as liberally as possible.

"When we mention grants to cover overheads here we're talking about scraps from the table, about crumbs."

Conservative Stotfold and Langford councillor Nicola Harris said: "People have had to waste a lot of stock and personal protective equipment.

"There are cases of people I know, as Gareth says, have taken their own lives because they literally haven't got anything left.

"Potentially we're going to have businesses going under. We need to look after our local economy.

"It's going to put more pressure on the welfare system and more pressure on the NHS, through people dying, depression and the like, so let's nip it in the bud now."