Council welcomes next phase of business support and dismisses claims of ‘favouritism’

Bridgend County Borough Council has welcomed the recent announcement from Welsh Government that the next phase of its Economic Resilience Fund will begin in June.

With an eligibility checker for new applications set to be available by mid-June, businesses will have time to prepare applications for when the fund fully re-opens.

The next phase of the fund will provide businesses with access to the remaining £100m of the £300m which has already been approved and allocated to support micro-businesses, small and medium-sized enterprises and large businesses throughout Wales.

In terms of eligibility, phase two of the fund will operate in the same way as phase one, but with an update to the micro-scheme which will provide access for limited companies who are not V.A.T. registered.

The Deputy Leader, Cllr Hywel Williams, said: “Whether it is business rates relief, emergency support or financial aid designed to help manage cash flow pressures, a huge range of support has already been made available to businesses during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, all of which has proven to be vitally important.

“With the pandemic still in effect, it is good to see that Welsh Government is making plans for launching phase two of the Economic Resilience Fund. As always, the council will continue to do all it can to support this, and to ensure that this can be rolled out quickly and efficiently.”

Addressing recent claims made on social media that some applications for business support during the pandemic have been favoured over others, Cllr Williams added: “Council staff have worked tirelessly to provide eligible local businesses with help and support, with many even giving up their weekends to ensure that applications have been processed as quickly as possible.

“With £27.5m in business support funding issued to more than 2,200 local traders so far and with staff working flat out to process further applications before the deadline of 30 June, it is disappointing to see that these efforts have now been tarnished with unjustified claims of favouritism.

“As we already hold the current and required information for approximately 300 businesses, it has been possible to pay some grants automatically without those traders having to provide new evidence.

“While this has meant that they did not have to apply, some businesses may have applied at the same time that they were being paid automatically, which has made it appear that their ‘applications’ have been processed rapidly.

“Across the entire range of available support, some applications have also been easier to process than others based on a wide range of different factors, including whether all of the accompanying evidence has been provided, whether the verification process has required greater in-depth analysis, whether certain relevant details are already authorised and on file, and so on.

“I want to make it very clear that all applications for support have been subject to the same rules and regulations in line with Welsh Government requirements, and that the Head of Finance and Section 151 officer has acted as final decision maker.

“Councillors have not been involved with the management of applications at all, and there has been no so-called political influence on the process whatsoever.

“I am proud of our staff for their fantastic efforts throughout the pandemic in delivering support that has proven to be worth millions of pounds to local businesses, and I have every confidence that this will continue for as long as it proves necessary.”