Hundreds of small firms across Huntingdonshire are missing out on thousands of pounds of government money on offer to tide them over during the coronavirus crisis.
Huntingdonshire District Council has handed out two thirds of the £30.8 million it has been allocated, with money going to 1,529 firms out of 2,654 eligible - but it is concerned that hundreds have still not applied for the grants worth either £10,000 or £25,000 depending on the size of the business.
Council leader Cllr Ryan Fuller has urged all the missing firms to apply for their grant.
But Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, which represents businesses across the county, has accused some councils of sitting on the money.
Chief executive John Bridge said: “It is imperative that the local authorities ensure these funds reach businesses as a matter of urgency. Many of these companies will not survive without these grants, which they are eligible to receive.”
Huntingdonshire has paid out £20 million of the money it received from the government and is the third highest spender in the chambers’ list of seven authorities in the area it covers.
Cllr Fuller said: “Most of the businesses that are eligible to receive a grant are those that qualify for Small Business Rates Relief and pay no business rates due to the size of their premises. HDC did not therefore hold the necessary bank account details for 81 per cent of all the businesses that we need to pay and have had to source this information.
“However, we were one of the first councils to launch the application process and to contact businesses and we’ve been processing and paying grants on an almost daily basis since April 3.
“More than 1,500 grants have now been paid to local businesses but approximately 800 of the 1,900 applications we received were incorrect or incomplete and have required further verification work, delaying the payment of grants to those businesses.”
Cllr Fuller said: “There are also several hundred businesses that have still not even applied. These grants are worth £10k or £25k and are non-repayable grants, not loans, to help businesses through this crisis, so to make sure that we can get this support out as quickly as possible I would urge all eligible businesses to apply.”
Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly said: “This is a hugely challenging time for businesses, especially for the smaller firms that are at the heart of our community in Huntingdonshire.
“It’s hugely reassuring to know that the support announced by the government has already reached 1,529 businesses in Huntingdonshire and is helping to protect businesses and people’s livelihoods.”
He added: “The government is determined to ensue that people get the support they need to do the right thing, to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives - without having to worry about losing their jobs or not being able to pay their bills.”
Cllr Fuller said: “At Huntingdonshire District Council we are putting considerable efforts into keeping as many of our services running as possible. All our waste collection, grounds maintenance and street cleaning services are running as normal and in line with Government and Public Health England advice.
“HDC is one of just five per cent of councils in the entire country that is still managing to maintain a full waste and operations service.
“We want to be able to continue collecting all three bins and offering our bulky waste disposal service, but fly-tipping and overloading household bins with inappropriate items will affect our ability to do that.”
Cllr Fuller said “unprecedented measures” had been put in place to support the residents, with hundreds of emergency food parcels and prescriptions being delivered.
Mr Bridge said: “We are finding that much of the money is still sitting in local authority bank accounts when it is so desperately needed by businesses.
“It is difficult to understand the reasons behind this, and how there is such a significant difference between the local authorities that cover our Chamber area.”
Applications for grants can be made to: www.huntingdonshire.gov.uk/covidgrantfunding.