Around half of English councils are handing out money from a £1.5billion pandemic fund

Just over half of councils in England have started making payments to businesses affected by Covid from a £1.5billion support package, almost 18 months after it was launched.

Property experts said it was ‘too little too late’ and thousands of businesses could miss out on almost £700m of available funding.

In March 2021, the government declared that companies affected by Covid-19 outside the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, and therefore ineligible for the corporate rate waiver in the event of pandemic, would not be able to appeal their property tax payments.

However, he announced a £1.5billion business rate relief fund for such businesses, which include office operators and property companies.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor at the time, gave the councils the responsibility of distributing the money to businesses that applied to the Covid-19 Supplementary Relief Fund (Carf).

Nevertheless, the results of freedom of information requests from property consultancy Gerald Eve revealed that hundreds of millions of pounds remain unpaid despite less than two months before the scheme’s deadline.

Access to information requests to 309 councils in England resulted in 207 responses.

Just over half, 119 councils, said they had started making business payments.

The responding councils that have started making payments account for £632m of the £1.5bn funding package, but have collectively only paid out £329m.

Gerald Eve said if this trend was extrapolated to other councils in England, a maximum of £820million of the total £1.5billion available would have been paid out.

Jerry Schurder, business rate policy manager at Gerald Eve, said: “This fund was meant to help businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic, but who have been denied support from other business rates.

“The government has claimed Carf is the quickest and fairest way to deliver support to businesses that need it most, but the last 17 months have shown that to be complete hyperbole.

“In fact, the opposite is true.

“Unfortunately, it’s too little, too late for the hundreds of thousands of businesses who have been retrospectively denied their right to appeal their tariff bills but have yet to receive a penny from local authorities.”

A government spokesperson said: “The government has provided an unprecedented package of support to businesses, including a total of £26billion in grants for those affected by the restrictions put in place to tackle Covid-19 .

“Councils are responsible for allocating funds and targeting them to businesses, depending on local circumstances.”

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