By Tony Earnshaw LDRS

Thousands of small businesses in Kirklees have together received almost £100m in emergency grants since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, Kirklees Council has also paid out nearly £200,000 to people on lower incomes who, after being required by law to self-isolate, have received £500.

The Local Restrictions Support Grant, which started on November 24, has seen the authority receive more than 2,000 applications from which it has made 638 payments totalling £895,052 – an average of around £200,000 a day.

It is currently working through the Discretionary Support Grant Scheme, which will be directed towards businesses that had to shut from November 5.

Senior councillor Graham Turner said Kirklees was supporting all local businesses eligible for the various grants being provided by government “and we are providing these as fast as we possibly can”.

In the early days of grant provision the council was criticised for its slowness in paying applicants.

But after redeploying staff it speeded up its delivery. Over a three-day period in April payments jumped by £30m in less than a week.

Cllr Turner said: “The business rates system was not designed to send money the other way. It’s a collection system, so it had to be re-modelled. That was a challenge in itself.

“Then we re-allocated staff in March and April to make sure that we got money out as soon as possible.”

He added: “We did get a huge amount of applications and emails and so to make sure that we could cope, we drafted extra people in.

“What we were dealing with was unprecedented, as it was for other councils.  I’m pleased that we got so many applications as that meant that businesses were on the ball and we were able to help them.”

Asked to respond to the government’s £1,000 Christmas grant to “wet-led” pubs – support for pubs in Tiers 2 and 3 that predominantly serve alcohol rather than food through festive period – he doubted it would make a dent in their debt.

He said: “While it is to be welcomed I’m not sure that it will be enough to save some pubs.”

And in response to the announcement that supermarket giant Tesco was to re-pay £585m in business rates relief, Cllr Turner said the cash was likely to be repaid to the government and would not trickle down to local authorities like Kirklees.

PAYMENTS AS AT DECEMBER 1

Small Business Relief/Retail, Hospitality & Leisure: 8,631 payments totalling £96,818,520.23

Discretionary Grants: 842 payments totalling £5,224,239.89

Local Restrictions Support Grants: 638 payments totalling  £895,052.00

Total: £102,937,812.12