New £5,000 grants for small businesses are now available for those who have slipped through the coronavirus support net.
Trafford Council has announced the new funding thanks to a new Government handout targeting small business owners and is welcoming applications.
Some small, independent traders described the applications process for the new grants as “overly complicated”, but said the funding available would make a huge difference to them if they can get it.
The Discretionary Business Grant Scheme was launched by Trafford Council on Friday, May 22 to provide much needed help to small businesses and said the application is designed to be as straightforward as possible, but to also prevent fraud.
To date Trafford Council has paid over £40 million of national business rates grants to local companies – but many small enterprises which do not directly pay business rates have so far not been eligible for assistance.
The new fund is aimed at small businesses that have not been able to access any of the Government’s existing grant programmes.
Traders at Altrincham Market are so far frustrated by the complicated applications process, but are hopeful they will receive funding.
Eddy, who runs the market’s fish mongers which has operated on the site for more than 50 years, said: “It’s awfully complicated, considering we’ve already been here 50 years, they want the takings for last two years. I don’t understand how that can come into question, it should be takings now, which are down because of the lockdown.
“I only had a quick look [at the application form] but it’s too much for what it is and that’s if you get it – £5,000, it would make a massive difference to us, we’ve lost a day’s trade, and we’re down.
“People aren’t coming out – we’ve never had anything like this before. We’re getting a little business, but takings are down a lot as we’re only using a quarter of the counter.”
Eddy added that there have also been issues with his supply chain, which have affected stocks.
He added: “We usually buy from Smithfields wholesale, which gets fish from Scotland and Cornwall, but it’s disrupted and with borders being closed in places like Spain too.
“We’re also a man down due to my father not being able to work because of his health. It’s tricky really.”
Eddy added his outgoings have remained the same, including his rent which goes to the market owners to pass on to the council through rates payments, his vehicle insurance, his fuel costs and other overheads – but the takings are massively down.
He said: “We’re still having to pay everything, it’s a nightmare, we’re struggling really.”
Market owner, Nick Johnson, added he felt that informal business models, like Altrincham Market and those that work there, are being “discriminated against” by the grant application process.
He said: “These guys missed out on the original grants. With the grants to retail and hospitality occupied shop units, there was no application. All they had to do was provide their rates number and bank details and they were paid between £10,000 and £25,000.
“These guys have to provide way more detail. They’re being discriminated against to get a much smaller amount and it doesn’t reflect the way businesses modern operate. The devil is in the detail and noone’s taking a rational and strategic view.
“Local authorities have been left to interpret the roll out of this new funding. I’m concerned the grants are incredibly difficult to apply for and am disappointed by the £5,000 amount. These market traders are businesses that employ people, they’re a massive contributor through tax but they desperately need more. It isn’t a fair reflection.”
Trafford Council said the eligibility criteria have been designed to ensure that it is businesses in real need which will benefit the most.
A spokesperson said: “The council is not aware of any approaches directly to us by market traders. We have sought to make the criteria and process as straightforward as possible, whilst also ensuring that public money is spent properly.
“There is an online application form which takes applicants through the criteria, and we have asked for supporting information as you would expect to ensure that applicants meet the national and local criteria and to prevent fraud.”
The discretionary grants will be up to a maximum of £5,000 depending on the category of businesses and will especially target companies operating in shared spaces, regular market traders like those in Altrincham Market and bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates.
Coun Tom Ross, Trafford Council’s executive member for finance, said: “We are doing everything possible to ensure that businesses can continue to operate safely during the current lockdown period – but many businesses have been forced to close and have seen their takings fall dramatically.
“This new grant will help those companies with fixed property costs that haven’t been able to access existing assistance programmes.
“While the funding is capped by the government, we want to help as many local firms as we can.”
Businesses should apply for funding online and see if they meet the eligibility criteria, and where they qualify the executive member said the council will make payments as swiftly as it can.
Full details of eligibility criteria and the application process for discretionary business grants can be found on the council’s website here: https://www.trafford.gov.uk/business/business-support-advice-and-funding/Business-support-advice-and-funding.aspx.