Derbyshire pub landlord slams council after wait to receive ‘restart grant’ leaves him unable to reopen
A Derbyshire pub landlord has hit out at council chiefs claiming a lengthy wait to receive his share of money through the Government’s Restart Grant scheme left him unable to reopen for business.
Lee Mills, owner of Ours Bar and Lounge in Creswell, had expected to receive around £8,000 from Bolsover District Council to allow his business to reopen safely once restrictions eased on Monday, April 12.
But days after lockdown rules were lifted, he is still waiting for the cash to stock the bar and to be able to trade.
Mr Mills filled out the grant application form on April 5 but claims he has been told by Bolsover District Council it will be May 19 at the earliest when he will receive payment – two days after pubs are able to reopen fully.
He said: "Being here for nearly 12 months without trading has resulted in us having to use the grant money that the Government has given us to keep our heads above water.
"In past experience, from the point I send the application back the money is usually in my account in about three maybe four days at the latest.
"By the time it got to Friday and I’d still heard nothing, I emailed the council and said ‘why haven’t we got the restart money? how on earth can I open my front doors on Monday when I’ve got no stock?’
"Worrying to myself over the whole weekend I then expected to wake up Monday morning and see the £8,000 in my account, thinking surely by the day of pubs being able to restart trading, but no money.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Restart Grant scheme last month, with money to be paid to eligible businesses from April 1.
The Government said councils are being pressed to ensure funds are paid out as quickly as possible to relieve pressure on businesses.
Bolsover District Council refute Mr Mills’ claims saying that at “no point in any conversations or email correspondence” did they say the grants would not be paid until May 19.
They added: “We have followed government guidance and have provided this guidance to the business owner, stipulating that under this round of grants the government are expecting more stringent tests to be carried out to reduce the risk of fraud and payment error.
"To achieve this, Local Authorities are advised that they should supplement current checks with the use of digital tools to further support the accuracy in grant awards. As a minimum, company and bank account pre-payment checks must be made prior to grants being paid.
"We will be receiving access to the National Fraud Initiative (NFI) digital tool on April 16, after which we can undertake the necessary checks and pay any eligible grants, which is most likely to be the following week. This is in line with most Derbyshire authorities.
“We can also confirm that this business, alongside many other businesses, has received grants from the previous rounds of funding that have been made available over the past year.”