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Coronavirus: Redbridge Council lags behind neighbouring boroughs with thousands of small businesses still awaiting relief grants

PUBLISHED: 07:00 30 April 2020

Edward Chase estate agent is one of the many small businesses waiting to receive their much-needed grant. Picture: Sukh Basra

Edward Chase estate agent is one of the many small businesses waiting to receive their much-needed grant. Picture: Sukh Basra

Archant

Almost 2,000 Redbridge businesses have not received cash as part of a scheme to help them stay afloat, with no information as to when they will.

Apple Master, in Ley Street, is one of nine businesses in the same plaza that is waiting for their grant money from Redbridge Council. Picture: Google MapsApple Master, in Ley Street, is one of nine businesses in the same plaza that is waiting for their grant money from Redbridge Council. Picture: Google Maps

Redbridge Council has yet to pay 1,872 business properties flagged as qualifying for help by April 27, the latest Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy figures show.

This means only 49pc of the 3,636 properties earmarked had been sent grants – making Redbridge the slowest at getting the grants out compared to neighbouring boroughs.

Redbridge was far below the 68pc of grant payments paid out by Havering and 61pc in Newham, which has 551 more businesses than Redbridge which qualify for the scheme.

Newham has handed out £10million more than Redbridge, which had paid out £27.7m out of an allocated pot of £49.6m.

Amit Sharma, who owns Fami along with his wife, finally received their grant after multiple interventions from the Recorder. Picture: Amit SharmaAmit Sharma, who owns Fami along with his wife, finally received their grant after multiple interventions from the Recorder. Picture: Amit Sharma

Two weeks after the small business grant scheme was launched the Recorder reported on small businesses such as Fami Hair and Beauty in Ilford, which was waiting for money after finding out it was paid into the wrong account.

The owners of Fami finally received their grant on Friday, three weeks after they first applied, after the Recorder had to intervene on their behalf multiple times.

The other two businesses featured in our story are still waiting for their money weeks later.

Selina, Rana, owner of Grace Hair and Beauty, said: “It’s really tough, we are nearing the end of the month and my landlord won’t give me any extra time to pay because she knows we qualify for the grant.

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 really don’t know how I am going to make it.”

Deputy leader Councillor Kam Rai asked businesses to bear with the council while it deals with the “massive logistical exercise”.

He said: “Our staff have been working tirelessly to ensure payments are made quickly and accurately.

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“We’ve responded by ensuring local businesses are given a vital financial lifeline at this difficult time by distributing funding of £30m to more than 1,800 businesses in the borough.

“This equates to approximately 60pc of the total grant that we’ve been allocated.

“This is money from the public purse and it’s therefore essential we carry out the relevant checks to make sure the funding is being paid correctly.”

Carmelo Nolasco, who owns the mobile phone repair shop Apple Master in Ilford, applied for his grant on April 7 and said he contacted the council nine times to get an update but so far has heard nothing back.

Carmelo, who is a father of three, said: “I have no income coming in now.

“I have friends from other boroughs who got paid within one or two days.

“I don’t know why they are not paying us.”

Sukh Basra, who owns Edward Chase estate agent in Goodmayes, first applied for the grant on April 6 and since then has sent four emails and made more than 25 calls to the council with no response until earlier this week after the Recorder intervened.

On Tuesday 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.

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.”

Rubila Amjad, who owns Shugilite Salon, and was featured in our previous report, applied for her grant on April 6 and only found out yesterday (April 29) that her application wasn’t processed because the council didn’t open her email notifying it of a name change on her licence after her business partner left.

She said: “Last month I had to pay the bills from my savings and I am so stressed by all of this not knowing when I’ll receive the grant.”

Cllr Rai said: “There are cases where we need to seek further information to validate the claim as they do not all pay business rates or pay by direct debit, or where company names have changed or been wound up.

“We’ll continue to process eligible payments as quickly as we can. Please bear with us.”


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