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Coronavirus: Oldest businesses in Redbridge fear closure if relief grant not paid soon

PUBLISHED: 15:04 07 May 2020 | UPDATED: 18:14 07 May 2020

Sean Lowery, owner of Steel Beauty, one of the oldest businesses in Gants Hill said he might have to close down if he doesn't receive his small business grant soon. Picture: Sean Lowery

Sean Lowery, owner of Steel Beauty, one of the oldest businesses in Gants Hill said he might have to close down if he doesn't receive his small business grant soon. Picture: Sean Lowery

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A number of businesses in Redbridge are still waiting to receive cash from the small business grant they applied for more than a month ago.

The tattoo parlour Steel Beauty celebrated its 20th anniversary in December but owner Sean Lowery said he has run out of money waiting for his small business grant to be paid. Picture: Sean LoweryThe tattoo parlour Steel Beauty celebrated its 20th anniversary in December but owner Sean Lowery said he has run out of money waiting for his small business grant to be paid. Picture: Sean Lowery

Last week the Recorder reported that the council lagged behind neighbouring boroughs in paying out the grant with 1,872 businesses still waiting. And no updates as to when they would get paid.

Since then 421 businesses have received their money up to May 3 but a further 944 owners were still waiting, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy figures show.

The number of businesses eligible to receive the grant has gone down by 507 compared to last week’s figures.

Deputy council leader Councillor Kam Rai pushed back and said the council is working hard to distribute as much of the grant funding as possible.

Deputy Leader Kam Rai said Deputy Leader Kam Rai said "a phenomenal amount of work has gone into administering this scheme at such short notice" and blamed delays on inadequate information where businesses have changed names or leaseholder details. Picture: Kam Rai

He said: “We’ve now paid out more than £34m of business grant funding. Over the last week we issued more than 421 payments, worth over £5m alone.

“In total, we’ve processed more than 2,300 claims and there are fewer than 60 grant applications currently being processed.

Carmelo Nolasco, who owns the mobile phone repair shop Apple Master in Ilford, applied for his grant on April 7 and finally received his payment on Tuesday after he was featured in our story.

He spoke about how desperate he was to receive the funds so he could pay rent and keep his business going during the lockdown.

He said: “The grants will also help us to pay the loan and the insurance too, commitments that were impossible otherwise without this intervention.”

He added that small businesses like his are very fragile at the moment, with very little chance of survival and thanked the government for providing him with a much-needed lifeline.

Unfortunately there are still a number of businesses still waiting.

Sean Lowery, who owns the tattoo parlour Steel Beauty, one of the oldest businesses in Gants Hill which celebrated its 20th anniversary in December, said he might be forced to close down if he doesn’t receive his grant soon.

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He said: “I have managed to keep going for seven weeks now but I have run out of money.

“I think it’s ridiculous that such an old, family run business has just been brushed to the side like so many other local businesses.”

Sean applied for the grant in early April and sent the council documents it requested and since then hasn’t heard anything.

He said: “I have sent eight or nine emails and just get an automated response but I can never get through to anyone.

“The government has provided this to help business owners like us so why are they not giving us the money we need so desperately?”

Sean, who is 51, said he doesn’t know what he will do if his shop goes under and his staff are worried about losing their jobs if the business closes.

He said: “One of the guys has worked with me for 10 years and he’s more like a brother to me and now I might need to lay him off.”

Sukh Basra, who owns Edward Chase estate agent in Goodmayes, first applied for the grant on April 6 and has called the council almost every day with no response until last week after the Recorder intervened.

Sukh finally heard back that the reason his grant was delayed was because the council was re-assessing his business rates from a change in 2018 and there was a backlog and he is still chasing the council almost every single day.

He said: “This is ridiculous. If we were told this three weeks ago when we first applied we could’ve chased it up with them but now we are waiting with no information as to when we will get help.”

Cllr Rai added: “While not all of the business premises in the borough are eligible, we’re making sure that all local businesses who meet the criteria are able to access the grants. This may not necessarily equal the amount of grant initially allocated by the government, as is consistent with many other council’s experience.”

“We encourage those that consider themselves eligible to review the criteria and submit a claim via the council’s website. The council is currently processing claims as efficiently as possible, while making sure necessary eligibility and validity checks are carried out.

“These checks are necessary to prevent fraud.”


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