A major industry body has hailed Rochdale's speed in getting additional coronavirus grants out to businesses in record time.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which represents thousands of small businesses across the country, has highlighted Rochdale's work following the government's announcement earlier this month that extra grants would be made available to help businesses which were not able to access funds under previous coronavirus schemes.
The funding, which was made available after lobbying by Rochdale and other councils, now covers businesses in multi tenanted units which pay their rent and rates as 1 bill.
The council has already paid £450,000 to 55 businesses
Within days of the government making the announcement, the application forms were up and running on the council's website and over £450,000 has already been paid out to 55 businesses across the borough.
As a result, The FSB has shared Rochdale's application form with other councils, including in the North East of England, after picking it up as an example of best practice.
The cash is available to small businesses with high fixed property costs which can demonstrate a substantial drop in income because of coronavirus. The government has asked councils to prioritise businesses in multi tenanted units, charities with a rateable value of less than £15,000, which have not already received coronavirus relief, and B&Bs.
Businesses can't apply for the grant if they have already benefitted from the existing coronavirus grants or the business rates holiday. They can apply if they have used the furlough scheme, the self-employment income support scheme or received a coronavirus loan.
These grants now cover businesses in multi tenanted units which pay their rent and rates as 1 bill
These grants are being offered in addition to the initial coronavirus business grants from government, which were announced shortly after the crisis began. The council has now paid out £39.87 million of this allocation.
Councillor John Blundell, cabinet member for regeneration, business and skills, said: "We know how important this lifeline is to businesses and their employees so our officers worked round the clock to get the cash out to them as quickly as possible using our faster payments system. Applications from eligible businesses where all the information is provided are usually paid out within just a few days. It's been a real team effort across the council and RDA (Rochdale Development Agency) and our staff have also used their knowledge to identify businesses which may be eligible and contacted them proactively."
But Councillor Blundell sounded a note of caution over the process.
"While we're pleased that the government listened to our concerns about businesses which were falling through the gap, our hands are tied in terms of who we can allocate the grants to, as there is some quite specific criteria. We would have preferred to use this money more flexibly, as we understand the local economy and our individual business needs better than Whitehall. While we're pleased that we've supported so many businesses, we will also have to say no to certain applicants who really need help because of criteria dictated from the centre."
The deadline for applications is Friday 5 June
The deadline for applications for the additional business grant is 5pm, Friday, 5 June 2020.