Brighton businesses struggling to get Covid-19 grants

A BUSINESS owner is frustrated he is still waiting for his government grant seven weeks after receiving the money from a different council.

Kevin Stemp, a senior aesthetic consultant at Clinic 33 in Hove, is still waiting for a government grant issued by Brighton and Hove City Council, despite receiving the same grant for his Eastbourne business back in April.

He is entitled to an £8,000 grant restart grant from the government for businesses in the hospitality, gyms, accommodation and personal care sectors as they reopen after they had to close for five months due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Brighton and Hove City Council, along with other local authorities, had to rewrite its grant application software to cover new fraud prevention measures for the scheme launched on 1 April.

However, Mr Stemp applied to both Eastbourne Borough Council and Brighton and Hove City Council on 14 April.

Eastbourne sent the payment on 16 April, but Mr Stemp is still waiting to hear about his grant from Brighton and Hove.

After contacting the council on Friday 28 May, he was told he might have to wait until the end of July.

Mr Stemp said: “It is ridiculous given every other local government in England has done it.

“I don’t understand, and other business owners I have spoken to have said the same, how it takes them so long to do something other people do in a relatively fast time.

“There is no one to moan to or complain to. You’re just left.”

The Argus: Councillor Tom Druitt is trying to help those facing delaysCouncillor Tom Druitt is trying to help those facing delays

Mr Stemp heard from Green councillor Tom Druitt on Tuesday 25 May, as he had offered to help people still waiting for grants after multiple businesses complained they had not received restart grants in time for reopening on 17 May.

Councillor Druitt, the Green administration’s finance lead, confirmed he is still trying to “get to the bottom” of the delay, as of Wednesday 2 June.

Nigel Parry, treasurer of the Railway Club in Belmont, off Dyke Road, feared the business, which has operated since the 1950s, may have to close because of the delays.

The club’s grant came through on 20 May, three days after restaurants and bars could open their indoor areas.

He said: “Business rates become payable again in July. I bet the council will not be slow to chase payment.

“As far as I’m concerned, the council has well and truly shafted the business rate-paying businesses.

“Other councils paid out weeks ago. Someone needs to be held accountable for this incompetence.”

In mid-May, a council spokesperson said: “We have paid out around 60 per cent of the 2,800 or so applications we have received.

“These payments are for both Restart Grants and for Additional Restriction Grants, which are for businesses that aren’t eligible for Restart because they do not pay business rates.

“We expect to pay the remaining grants within a fortnight, apart from the ones where the applications are incomplete, and we have asked for further information.”

The city council communications department did not respond to requests for comment or an update on how many grants had gone out or why some businesses will have to wait until late July.

The Argus | Brighton and Hove news