Milton Keynes businesses could stand to lose out on £2.35m of support funding from the Conservative Government due to the Labour-Liberal Democrat Council’s slow rollout of grant money used to support struggling businesses and self-employed workers affected by lockdown restrictions.
MK Council was provided with £7.8m in Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) funding in January, but as of March, only 54% of the funding had been distributed. This contrasts to neighbouring Buckinghamshire Council, who distributed their full allocation by March.
On 15 April, the Government had advised local councils that in order to access the additional funding, the full allocation from the previous schemes must have been spent by 30 June 2021.
Current forecasts from MK Council indicate that under the current rollout speed, the Council would fail to spend the money and struggling small businesses across MK would miss out on £2.35m of funding.
Following Conservative pressure, a Delegated Decision to expand the current programme to rush the money out has been scheduled for 8 June.
However, it will be a race against time to secure the extra funding that is desperately needed by small businesses.
The Conservatives had previously called on MK Council to speed up their distribution of business support funding in January, but were told by the Labour Council Leader, Cllr Pete Marland, that they were planning to fund it at a pace of £300,000 per month – meaning it wouldn’t be spent until April 2022.
Conservative Councillors are now once again calling on the Council to unlock the funding as soon as possible to support MK’s economic recovery and protect jobs.
Cllr Alex Walker, Leader of the Conservative Group, said:
“This would be a double blow to struggling businesses in MK.
We warned the Council that they needed to distribute the grant money quicker so that businesses can continue to operate and jobs could be saved.
Now we find ourselves in a situation where business in MK could miss out due to slow rollout of government support funding while neighbouring councils get extra cash to boost their recovery.
It demonstrates yet again that the Council doesn’t know who needs support, where they are or what they need. Years of ignoring businesses by Labour is now resulting in a failure to give them the funding to stay open.
It’s one of this Council’s biggest failures in their handling of the pandemic.”