£330m in Omicron grant cash unspent by councils

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Deep dive: analysis from Altus Group found under half the funding was distributed (image: Getty/KanawatTH)
Deep dive: analysis from Altus Group found under half the funding was distributed (image: Getty/KanawatTH)

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Hospitality and leisure businesses received less than half (48%) of the £635m promised by the Government, analysis has found.

Real estate adviser Altus Group found £305m of the cash distributed to more than 300 English councils had been paid out in under three weeks before the final cut off date for applications.

The Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant scheme meant councils received funding to be allocated in one-off grants, dependent on rateable value, of up to £6,000.

The funding was first announced just before Christmas before being made available to all local authorities from Friday 7 January 2022​ with the scheme closing for applications on 18 March and all final payments having to be made and dispersed to recipients by 31 March.  

Government action

When the grants were first released, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng also issued an open letter, calling on council leaders to help protect jobs and livelihoods.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak added: “We know the Omicron variant hit our hospitality and leisure businesses – which is why, as we have throughout the pandemic, we stepped into help.”

According to Altus Group, 29 councils failed to distribute any of the funding while a further 89 local authorities distributed less than half of their total allocation in grant funding to those companies hardest hit.

Small business minister Paul Scully spoke at The Morning Advertiser​’s MA Leaders Club last month (Thursday 24 February) and urged operators to apply for the funding​ if they hadn’t already.

Funding distribution

He also revealed at that point, more than £550m worth of the grants had yet to be distributed by local authorities.

This was followed by a snap poll from The Morning Advertiser ​of 147 readers, which found three quarters (75%) had not received the funding​.

However, the proportion of operators who had then received the grant compared to January increased as a survey of 143 readers then found 95% had not received the money.

Altus Group UK president Robert Hayton labelled allocation of the funding a “postcode lottery” and added: “These types of businesses saw one of their most valuable trading periods wiped out and simply didn’t get the support they needed quickly enough. I just hope councils rallied at the end.”

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