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COVID NEWS


GOVERNMENT TO INVESTIGATE LOCAL AUTHORITY FAILURE TO PAY OUT GRANTS


The Government is to investigate why Local Authorities have failed to release almost £1.6bn worth of grants to businesses, the Events Industry Alliance (EIA) has said. According to Conference News, an investigation by the EIA found that 82.5% of the total funds given by the UK Govern- ment to councils had not yet been paid, despite the funds being issued on 31 October 2020. The EIA submitted a Freedom of Information request on 26 January and despite the statutory deadline for responses being 23 February, only 128 councils out of a total of 314 English authorities responded to the request in full and on time, although some are reported to have requested exten- sions to the deadline. The Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) was announced on 31 October and £1.6bn has been made available to local authorities to distribute to businesses that have been forced


OLDHAM COUNCILLOR AND EX-CABBIE WELCOMES SUPPORT


An ex-private hire driver who now serves as a councillor has welcomed the support offered by Oldham council to his former trade. The Oldham Times reports that Cllr Peter Davis, who represents the Failsworth West ward, has lauded the grant scheme for Oldham’s licence holders as “a wel- come helping hand”. The closure of the night-time economy over the last 12 months has had a devastating effect on the local taxi trade. Until Oldham Council’s offer of £1,000 for every Oldham taxi licence plate holder, an investment totalling £1.3million, there was no single support scheme for cabbies. He said many taxi drivers struggled to identify which scheme, if any, they were eligible for, and even when they did the application process was challenging to navigate. Cllr Davis, who was a PH driver for Failsworth-based Embassy Taxis for over 20 years, said: “I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been these last 12 months for taxi drivers. I know drivers that I used to work with have taken other jobs this last year or claimed Universal Credit. I hope that this grant will help drivers to hang in there until the economy picks up again. This grant is a welcome helping hand.” To be eligible for the Discretionary Business Grants for Taxis scheme drivers must hold a current driver’s licence with the council; and have all DBS, DVLA and medical checks in place (or be in the process of renewing a licence). As part of the funding package each driver will also receive a free internal safety screen, cleaning materials and sanitiser to help fight the spread of Covid-19.


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to cease activities due to Covid restrictions. Individual ARG payments could be up to £3,000 per company per month - a critical amount for smaller businesses. “We welcome the Government’s decision to urgently investi- gate the non-payment of £1.6bn in ARGs to eligible businesses by local councils,” said Andrew Harrison, director of the Event Service and Supplier Association, an EIA member.


“It is vital that we now see urgent action on payments, as businesses desperately need the funds they have been promised as well as further support over the coming months, so they can survive until national restrictions are lifted.” Following the EIA’s request for more information on the level of payments to be made public, last week the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) pub- lished its own data that showed an even lower level of payments than the EIA’s investigations had uncovered. The Daily Telegraph reported a response from the Govern- ment on 25 February, stating that “a senior government source” had told the paper that ministers were “concerned” by the slow delivery of the grants by local authorities after giving councils “clear guidance”. The Telegraph also report- ed that officials are understood to have approached councils to find out why the funding is not being sent out at speed to cash-starved firms. The EIA has written to the chancellor, business secretary, and head of the Association of Local Government urging them to take urgent action to ensure the blocked payments are released to eligible businesses and to ensure that any new schemes do not see the same delays that have afflicted the ARG programme.


FREE SAFETY SCREENS AVAILABLE FOR OLDHAM DRIVERS


Every taxi driver in Oldham could receive £1,000 to help them get over the impact of coronavirus after Oldham Council agreed a potential funding package of more than £1.3million. The council has launched the Discretionary Business Grants for Taxis scheme to help drivers across the borough. The scheme would see eligible drivers receive a one-off pay- ment. It is aimed at hackney carriage andprivate hire taxi drivers who are licensed by Oldham Council. As part of the funding package each driver will also receive a free internal safety screen, cleaning materials and sanitiser to help fight the spread of the disease. Licensed drivers will be contacted with details of how to apply.


APRIL 2021


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