Added fraud checks for Restart Grants stall reopening plans

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Lockdown grants: one operator said he could not reopen his beer garden this week as he had not yet received a Restart payment (image: Getty/ 71gazza)
Lockdown grants: one operator said he could not reopen his beer garden this week as he had not yet received a Restart payment (image: Getty/ 71gazza)

Related tags: lockdown, Beer, Derbyshire, beis, coronavirus

Fraud checks are delaying the payments of Government Restart Grants, leaving operators frustrated and helpless.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has asked local authorities to carry out pre and post payment fraud checks, The Morning Advertiser (MA)​ understands.

This means a more rigorous approach than with previous business support grants, including company and bank account checks to reduce the risk of fraud or payments in error.

BEIS has asked councils to pay eligible applicants by 31 July 2021 after councils received the funding on 1 April 2021.

Derbyshire operator Lee Mills described confusion and anger after communicating with his local authority over when a grant payment may be made.

Without grant money in the bank, he was unable to reopen his Creswell pub Ours on Monday 12 April as he could not pay for a beer order.

Stringent tests

“I'm really angry. We don't know who's lying, who's telling the truth,” he told The MA​, recounting attempts to communicate with council officials.

The operator’s local authority Bolsover District Council explained it had communicated to businesses the Government was “expecting more stringent tests”.

The council would receive access to a National Fraud Initiative digital tool on Friday 17 April and be able to undertake necessary checks. 

It said it’s approach was in line with most other neighbouring authorities and would mean grants would “most likely” be paid the week commencing Monday 19 April. 

At one point, the licensee was reportedly told he may not receive a grant payment until 19 May given the additional fraud check process. Bolsover District Council denied that this date had ever been mentioned.

Fuming operator

Mills said he was left “fuming” after only being told about the extra fraud checks on the day beer gardens were set to reopen and said smaller companies were disadvantaged. 

“Big pub companies have got money in the bank,” he explained, “I've got no money in my bank and can't reopen my doors until I get that grant.”

“I can't even afford to buy a box of Walkers crisps,” he added.

Now, the community pub is planning to reopen in May when indoor trade will be permitted under step three of the Government's lockdown easing roadmap.

However, Mills added: "If I want to open tomorrow then I should be able to. I want to be able to make that judgment and decision but I can't without that Restart money."

Long waits

While some operators have received their grants already, many across the country are still waiting for a payment. 

Pubs have faced delays and uncertainty over the payment of lockdown grants in the past, sparking calls from trade bodies that local authorities expedite the process this time around. 

More than half of grants that were announced to support pubs in the second lockdown (November) still had not been paid in January The MA​ reported.

Operators also faced delays with the first lot of coronavirus support grants back in the first national lockdown of spring 2020. 

  • What is your experience with accessing Restart grants? Let us know if you have received your grant payment yet and what the process has been like on rzvyl.unjxvaf@jeoz.pbz

Related topics: Legislation

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