Preston Council urged to speed aid payments to businesses struggling amid coronavirus

Councils have been urged to speed up payments to local businesses as official figures show huge differences in the amounts dealt with countywide.

Saturday, 25th April 2020, 6:45 am

In figures released by the Government at the start of the week showing how much had been allocated to each local authority and how much each council had handed out Blackpool had got £59m and handed out £30m, South Ribble had £20.8m and handed out £10.7m while Preston got £34.9m but had handed out just £9.7m.

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: “Local Authorities were handed this money several weeks ago and we are surprised by the huge variances in the speed of which payments are being made.

“It appears that there are enormous differences in how quickly local authorities are reacting and allocating funds with some far out-performing others in the county.

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Chief Executive of Preston City Council, Adrian Phillips

“We stress to all local authorities the need to prioritise these payments. Only through these grant payments many employers will be able stabilise their businesses and ensure they’re ready to once again make a valuable contribution to the local economy once restrictions are lifted.”

Chief Executive of Preston City Council, Adrian Phillips defended the council’s record saying that the Government figures were not direct comparisons and that as of Wednesday, Preston City Council had processed £11.74m in grants.

He said: “This is a huge priority for us and the team is working across weekends to ensure we can make payments as quickly as possible.

“However the significant number of businesses who have applied but who had not provided us with up-to-date information added to a variety of other reasons that have resulted in incomplete forms and additional contact for verification, has resulted in significant delays while the team deals with these cases.

“We are continuing to work at pace through applications, issuing payments daily. We know how stressful a time this is for everyone, particularly business owners and are doing everything we can to get this money to the right people as soon as we can.”

“We have also had notification from Government that the current data is skewed, due to some local authorities provided cumulative figures while others, including ourselves, have provided the weekly figures as requested. We expect the updated figures to demonstrate a more balanced perspective.”