Wisbech businessman ‘OUTRAGED’ after £138,732 destined for the town is given back to the Government
PUBLISHED: 15:06 16 November 2018 | UPDATED: 15:06 16 November 2018
A Wisbech businessman says he is ‘outraged’ after Fenland District Council returned £138,732 of Government funding destined for the High Street.
Ray Wicks, who owns Etcetera in Wisbech, has expressed his concern after only £21,277 was spent out of a £160,000 funding boost from the Government.
It was revealed that Fenland was named one of the worst offenders, spending barely a seventh of the cash given. Redditch topped the Fens after only spending £15,800.
Mr Wicks said: “I’m absolutely outraged. We’ve seen many small businesses close that could have been sustainable if they had some support.
“Fenland were the second worst spender. They [the Government] allocated the money to many councils to help support the high street and small businesses.
The £160,000 was aimed at businesses with a rateable value of less than £200,000. The Government decided how much money to allocate based on the increase in bills.
Each business that qualified for the pot should have received an invitation to apply for the fund, however Mr Wicks says he received nothing, despite being eligible.
He added: “I did not receive anything and I’m not aware of any other businesses in the town that received anything either.
“It’s just sad that we’ve seen so many small business close and this fund could have helped sustain some of them for a little bit longer at least.”
Barnsley was home to the council that spent the most of their allocated fund, spending all £276,000 given to them in September.
A spokesman for the council said: “Essentially we invited all potentially eligible businesses in Fenland to apply for the relief.
“Unfortunately many of those who applied did not qualify as they were in receipt of other reliefs.”
Freedom of Information requests by the Daily Mail showed that 159 out of the 195 councils that replied had failed to spend all of their grant by the end of April.
Mr Wicks added: “Overall, I don’t think enough is being done to support local businesses. But clearly the Government are concerned about the high street.
“They [Fenland District Council] could have publicised the fund better and they could have contacted businesses to see if they can help.
“I also think they could have put someone in charge of it and get someone to visit businesses to see if the pot could support them in any way to help them.”
The council’s full statement said: The criteria we set for the Discretionary Rate Relief follows the government’s allocation criteria, with the exception of one area.
“The increase in rates (experienced by businesses) was reduced from 12.5 per cent (government criteria) to 10 per cent (Fenland’s criteria) in a bid to help more benefit.
“All potentially eligible businesses (excluding national chains or any businesses with RV above £200,000) were contacted about this relief and invited to apply (the relief could not be given automatically).
“As a result of many businesses being in receipt of other reliefs (both mandatory and discretionary), they did not qualify for this particular relief (as set by government criteria).
“As a result of the low take-up of the relief in 2017/18, we were able to give those businesses who received the relief in 2017/18 higher amounts of relief in 2018/19 and we also reduced the increase in rates to greater than 6 per cent.
“To date, we have awarded £72,316 of relief in 2018/19 from our discretionary fund allocation of £78,000.”
Figures source: Bankier Sloan chartered surveyors