Council business grant payment process slammed as 'a shambles'
Date published: 21 January 2021
Local businesswoman Odelle Fletcher
Oldham Council has come under fire from local businesses desperate for cash after their trade was affected by the ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
Eligible businesses can claim a grant towards lost trade if they have been forced to close, but some business owners claim the council are slow in making the payments, or not making them at all.
Odelle Fletcher, who runs The Tanning Room in Lees, said: “Oldham council were given money from the government to help local businesses in lockdown.
“Every two weeks we are closed we should get help.
“Three times now I have been on the council site to claim my business grant and the site is down.
“I have rang them twice to be told I will get the money as soon as possible and the site will be open.
“I am disgusted in Oldham council, they are a shambles."
Ms Fletcher says she isn't the only frustrated local business owner: “People are getting very angry with Oldham council and wondering why it’s taking so long for the grants to come through.
"It was fine and so straightforward when the money came from the Government at the start of all this, but it's not now the council are administering it.
“Yesterday (Tuesday) I received a phone call from Sam Al Hamdani, a local Liberal Democrat councillor.
“He has been in touch with Oldham council.
“I’m not sure who he spoke to, but surprise, surprise, the money was in our accounts this morning (Wednesday).
“Yes, we’ve had our money now thankfully, but we shouldn’t be put through all this stress of waiting so long for this money we desperately need. It’s not on.”
LA Flowers is another Lees business which has been affected
Cllr Abdul Jabbar, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Green, said: "Oldham Council has processed more than £62.8m in business grants since the beginning of the pandemic – this includes the initial lockdown in March.
"The latest mandatory grants available are for businesses who have been legally required to close and cover the period 31 December 2020 to 16 February 2021. The payments support businesses during Tier 4 and the current national lockdown and include additional one-off grants of up to £9,000 for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses.
"Government funding for these grants was received by Oldham Council on Friday 15 January and we immediately began processing payments to eligible businesses.
"Payments were made to a large number of businesses a few days ago. In most cases these funds will have now cleared into the recipients’ bank accounts.
"Payments are being issued every day and colleagues are seconded to the business grants teams to process applications and grants as quickly as possible. We have automatically made payments based on data from the November lockdown to streamline the process so businesses do not need to apply again.
"We thank businesses for their patience during this time and appreciate the difficult and worrying situation they are in. If anyone has not applied for a business grant then we urge you to submit an application as soon as possible.
"If you do not pay business rates there is still a wide range of discretionary support available.
Saddleworth West and Lees Councillor Al Hamdani said: "For local businesses who have had to close their doors, these grants are a lifeline.
"Anyone could be in this situation; they deserve this support to ensure that they can reopen as soon as conditions allow.
“It is desperately worrying that so many businesses are getting to the point where I have to step in.
"If businesses are unable to get answers themselves or cannot get through the application forms on the website, then this needs addressing urgently.
"I have been able to help several local businesses to get this support, and the team administering the grants have been very responsive whenever I followed up on a payment.
"But people come to me when they haven’t been able to get through the system in the first place.
"The Council must improve anything that is getting in the way of that support for local businesses.
"We need more information going out to local businesses and individuals so people know exactly what is happening."
For further information on grants, go to www.oldham.gov.uk/businessgrants
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