One-in-four operators yet to receive grants from second lockdown

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Grant application: The MA’s survey highlighted inconsistent grant application experiences, with some comments describing councils as being 'as good as gold' while others said staff had 'no idea' what they were talking about
Grant application: The MA’s survey highlighted inconsistent grant application experiences, with some comments describing councils as being 'as good as gold' while others said staff had 'no idea' what they were talking about

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A Morning Advertiser (MA) survey has revealed that a quarter of pub operators (24%) who applied for grants during November’s lockdown are still awaiting funds – with many citing outstanding payments of more than £10,000.

According to data gathered by The MA​ between 7 and 12 January 2020​, 89% of pub operators applied for Government grants during the first Covid-19 lockdown – with one in ten eschewing Government funding. 

However, while 93% of applicants had received payments in full at the time of writing, 7% still have payments intended to help their business endure last year’s spring and early summer lockdown outstanding.  

While the vast majority of respondents stated that they’d received their grant funding in full, a number stated that they were awaiting payment of more than £10,000 from the first lockdown – with a small number citing figures in excess of £20,000.  

Additionally, while a similar number of publicans applied for Government support during England’s second national lockdown in November – with 91% pursuing grants – almost one in four (24%) applicants have yet to receive full payment.

However, while more operators have outstanding Government grants from the second lockdown, the sums recorded were generally lower than those from the first lockdown – with the majority of late payments totalling less than £5,000.

While this doesn’t appear to have dampened the sector’s willingness to apply for grants – with 98% stating that they will seek Government grants during lockdown three – one-in-four operators (24%) do not have high hopes of receiving funds. 

The MA’s​ nationwide survey also highlighted inconsistent grant application experiences from pub operators, with some comments describing councils as being “as good as gold” and “spot on all the way through” and other detailing staff having “no idea what I was talking about”.   

While a number of respondents reported slow payment or “small issues” in their grant funding applications, some have described local authorities as “absolutely awful”, having “no idea what’s happening”.  

Outstanding payments

The MA’s​ survey was launched after one publican revealed that he was pursuing more than £25,000 in Covid grant funding from 15 different local authorities in December – with one yet to process any payments at all. 

Chester-based multiple operator Ian Price – whose portfolio comprises 16 sites across the north of England and Wales – said he was still awaiting £26,335 in Government grants​ more than seven weeks since his first payment was received in October.  

Speaking on 16 December, he explained that his outstanding sum comprised £12,335 in Local and National Restriction Support Grants – the first payment of which was made on 29 October – and £14,000 worth of wet-led pub bonus, with the first of the two £1,000 payments received thus far landing in his bank account on 3 December.  

What’s more, according to data provided by real estate advisor Altus Group, while £12.3bn was allocated across the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund (RHLGF) during the first national lockdown, there was a 10% underspend of the total amount committed for the one-off grants worth up to £25,000 – equating to £1.21bn – as of 5 October.

While 960,112 recipients were identified as being eligible for SBGF or RHLGF grants, a total of 53,492 have not received payment according to the Group’s figures.

'Stark contrast' 

The news also comes after the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) also found widespread inconsistency in the delivery of Government grants to pub operators in a recent survey – finding that fewer than one-in-four pub shave received full payment of autumn and winter funding.

“Eighty percent of the respondents of this survey are single site operators, but for those running pubs across several local authority areas, the stark contrast from one local authority to another can clearly be seen,” Steven Alton, CEO of the BII commented.

“Some are getting it right first time, with swift payments and great communication, whilst others have not even made applications for grants announced months ago available on their websites.

“Whilst there are many areas of concern, there are also some examples of local authorities who have gone above and beyond to support their local hospitality businesses, through excellent communication, easy-to-navigate application processes online, and swift payments into accounts, as well as full utilisation of their discretional grant funding to specifically help pubs,” he continued.

“They are setting the standards that should be expected of all local authorities, but can also surely provide valuable lessons for those struggling to cope with the complexity of the grant system."

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