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Coronavirus: After seven weeks waiting for relief grant some Redbridge businesses on brink of closure

PUBLISHED: 11:12 19 May 2020 | UPDATED: 11:12 19 May 2020

Emma Kilby, owner of Gems Hairdressing, first applied for her grant on April 2 and said she is at the end of her tether. Picture: Emma Kilby

Emma Kilby, owner of Gems Hairdressing, first applied for her grant on April 2 and said she is at the end of her tether. Picture: Emma Kilby

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Seven weeks after the small business grant was set up some Redbridge businesses fear they will go under while waiting for their relief with no guidance as to when or if they will receive it.

Emma had to furlough her entire staff but she is behind on all her bills while she is waiting for her grant to paid out. Picture: Emma KilbyEmma had to furlough her entire staff but she is behind on all her bills while she is waiting for her grant to paid out. Picture: Emma Kilby

Deputy leader of Redbridge Council, Councillor Kam Rai said “a phenomenal amount of work has gone into administering this scheme at such short notice” paying out £35.5million to more than 2,400 businesses.

As of Friday, May 15 the council had 43 payments still waiting to be processed but to those businesses the delay in receiving their grant and the lack of communication from the council has been unacceptable.

Sean Lowery, owner of Steel Beauty in Gants Hill who applied in early April, said: “I still don’t even know where I stand.

“At this point I am on the brink of closing and I might just have to give up my shop.

The owner of Taj Carpets said he is struggling to keep his business open while waiting for his payment. Picture: Google MapsThe owner of Taj Carpets said he is struggling to keep his business open while waiting for his payment. Picture: Google Maps

“It’s been so stressful for me it’s unbelievable.”

Sean’s landlord asked him for proof that he hasn’t received his grant yet and he had to show him the Recorder article from this series which he was featured in along with his bank statement.

Minal Chhabra, who has owned Taj Carpets in Ilford Lane for the past six years said it’s been very difficult to manage his expenses with his landlord pushing him while he is waiting for his grant payment to come through.

He said: “They’re always saying my application is under process and they are delaying and delaying and I don’t know why.”

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 LowerySean 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

Cllr Rai said the delay in some payments is largely down to inadequate information, where businesses have changed names or leaseholder details.

He added: “Our checks have meant that a total of 659 duplicate, fraudulent or inadmissible claims have been detected, thereby protecting the public purse.”

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To some business owners the lack of updates from the council has become a constant struggle.

South Woodford tailoring shop Nu Fit U waited for five weeks to receive their small business grant payment before it was finally paid on May 19. Picture: Google MapsSouth Woodford tailoring shop Nu Fit U waited for five weeks to receive their small business grant payment before it was finally paid on May 19. Picture: Google Maps

Emma Kilby, owner of Hair by Emma, in Ley Street, said she was told she would receive payment six days after first submitting her application on April 2.

On April 29, when she hadn’t received her payment she contacted the council and said she was told she would hear back in 10 days and not to contact the council before then.

After the 10 days passed she spoke to someone at the council who said they couldn’t find her application and she hasn’t been able to get a response since.

She said: “I now have no idea what is happening or what I can do to ensure my application is being processed. Without this grant there is a possibility I will have to cease trading.

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

“I am at the end of my tether.”

Emma’s business is listed as Gems Hairdressing Ltd but trades as Hair By Emma and she is left wondering if the difference in the names is what has delayed her grant payment.

Parvez Rashid, who has owned South Woodford tailoring shop Nu Fit U for the past 50 years, said he had been waiting for his grant for five weeks before it was finally paid today (May 19).

Speaking to the Recorder before he received his grant he said: “I am a rate payer and my business has been in the same location with the same owner this entire time so I don’t why it’s taking so long.

“I have not heard anything from them and it’s virtually impossible to contact them.”

Cllr Howard Berlin, deputy leader of the Redbridge Conservative Group, said the clear instructions from the government is that the money allocated to the council must be distributed to businesses without delay as many are in desperate need of funding.

He said: “I am currently dealing with a number of businesses in Redbridge who have not received the grant. In some cases the issue is with regard to use of the property as some properties are exempt.”

He added that the Conservative group is working with the council to ensure the grants are being correctly allocated and asked any businesses who have not received their grant to contact him.


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