Only half of emergency coronavirus grants for small businesses paid out in Sheffield

By Naina Bhardwaj

Only half of emergency coronavirus grants have been paid out to support small businesses in Sheffield, according to newly released government data.

The city has been allocated £113m in funding as part of the government’s support package for local authorities across England.

However, just 50% of this has been distributed by Sheffield City Council compared to Leeds which has managed to pay out 70% of its £162m allocation.

As of 27 April, 9334 small businesses were deemed to be eligible for a grant but only 4,677 had been awarded, with the city falling just below the national average.

Sophie Whittam owns the Box Barrre gym on Ecclesall Road which was soon due to open to the public.

She applied for a business valuation after moving into the premises in February but the rateable value hadn’t yet been decided by the Valuations Office Agency (VOA) when the lockdown began.

Now, Ms Whittam is trying to prove to the council that the gym is eligible for funding despite having all of the plans and correct documentation in place.

She said: “It’s like a double whammy because we don’t have revenue from customers yet so we really are 100% dependant on this grant to pay the bills.

“There’s no formal appeals process and I just don’t know what to do now. I feel like the process needs reviewing since a lot of businesses are missing out because of timing technicalities.

“I’ve exerted so much energy on it and now I’m at the point where I’ve just got to sit tight and be at the mercy of the council who are withholding what is rightfully mine.”

Cllr Douglas Johnson who represents the City Ward for the Green Party has spoken out about the issue.

He said: “Some people have been waiting four or five weeks and the process has been a huge disruption to their businesses, many of them receive very little funding in the first place.

“It’s absolutely vital for Sheffield City Council to get these payments out to small and independent businesses and social enterprises, particularly small shops and cafes, at the very earliest they possibly can.”

The UK government has distributed £12.3bn to local authorities across England as part of their business support package, plans for which were announced by the Chancellor during last month’s Budget.

Sheffield City Council did not respond to a request for comment.