As we are all only too well aware, we are living in an unprecedented public health crisis that has adversely affected all aspects of our lives. Due to these extraordinary circumstances that we find ourselves in, these adverse effects have emerged within an extremely short timeframe. As predicted, this is an extremely turbulent time for businesses of all types and sizes. Since these effects on businesses began to impact, I have received many telephone calls and emails from local businesses asking for guidance as to how they can ensure their business can remain afloat during these times as well as post-Covid.
Within a short timeframe, the Government announced several financial packages that included the suspension of business rates, government-backed loans and business grants, which aim to support small businesses locally. The Government ensured this by allocating an extra £1.6 billion to local authorities so that they have the resources to help the vast number of businesses that would apply for this fund. Of this, Harrow Council has received £13.1 million.
Since this scheme was announced, tens of thousands of businesses have applied for the business grant. I would like to make it clear that, as Harrow Council is the local authority in Harrow, they are the recipient for the funds from Central Government and are therefore responsible for reviewing all business grant applications and allocating such funds. Therefore, business grant applications are the responsibility of Harrow Council. Equally, Harrow Council has the discretion over hardship grants to businesses which do not qualify for grants.
I understand that there have been significant delays in the processing of applications, which has prevented businesses from receiving the necessary funds. I have been regularly chasing Harrow Council to ensure that the speed and delivery of this process is speeded up. Whilst Harrow Council have assured me that they have ramped up their workload capacity to accommodate the demand, Harrow Council is the worst performing council in London and one of the worst in the country for delivering on their responsibility to ensure businesses receive the funds to which they are entitled.
I understand that some businesses have yet to receive their funds or have their application processed. I do not believe this to be acceptable and I have escalated the concerns to the Government. It is totally unacceptable that Harrow Council have performed so poorly compared to other local authorities both in London and across the UK. Regrettably, I cannot direct operations or resources that are firmly within Harrow Council’s remit, which means that I cannot fast-track an application, however, I will continue to chase Harrow Council to deliver the service expected.