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Council fastest in West Midlands at distributing grants to small and medium businesses affected by Coronavirus lockdown

Wyre Forest District Council has issued more grants to small and medium businesses than any other council in the West Midlands.

The Government unveiled the Small Business Grants Fund and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund in March and gave the District Council £22.5m on 1 April to distribute to businesses in Wyre Forest.

Nearly 2,000 businesses across the district are estimated to be eligible for grants. The Revenues and Benefits team at the Council has worked very hard, including at weekends, to ensure that grants are paid as quickly as possible. This has been a complex task because a number of details had to be confirmed with most businesses before payments could be made.

The Leader of the Council, Councillor Graham Ballinger, said

I am immensely proud of what the Council’s staff have achieved in such a short time. At 19 April, Wyre Forest had issued  £17.12m or nearly 76% of the grants – this was the highest proportion of any council in the West Midlands and in the top 5% of all councils across England.

“A week later, on 26 April, the team had paid out £18.455m or nearly 82%, again the highest proportion of any council in the West Midlands and well ahead of the English average of 62%. This is a fantastic achievement and I know the team will continue to work hard to pay grants to any remaining eligible businesses.”

To put the scale of the achievement in context, in a year the District Council normally spends about £60m, inclusive of housing benefit payments to individuals. In a few weeks, the Revenues and Benefits team have issued grants worth over a quarter of the Council’s normal annual expenditure.

Rob Csondor, Managing Director of Worcestershire-based RCA Regeneration and Area Lead for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said:

These are extremely testing times for all businesses, so it’s vitally important that the Government’s support packages are delivered efficiently and effectively to the front line.  The grant schemes for smaller businesses are particularly important as they help businesses to survive through the current crisis and do not have to be re-paid at a future date.  For both of these reasons, on behalf of FSB I congratulate and thank the Wyre Forest District Council team for their hard work and impressive achievements”.

Councillor Ballinger added:

We will continue to make efforts to contact businesses but, if any business thinks it is eligible and has not already discussed this with the council, I would encourage them to get in touch at ctax@wyreforestdc.gov.uk

-ENDS-

Notes for editors

The Government has set the eligibility criteria for the grants, which are being issued on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Grants of £10,000 are available to all businesses that receive small business rate relief, and up to £25,000 to eligible businesses in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors depending on their rateable value. One of the Government’s conditions is that businesses had to be on the rating list on 11 March 2020. Businesses that have formed subsequently or do not appear on the rating list, because they do not own or rent separate premises, are not eligible.

BEIS publishes data on payments made by councils and the latest data for 26 April are available here:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/881566/Coronavirus_local_authority_grant_funding_200427.csv/preview