‘We bring colour to the town’ - Flower shop ‘slips though net’ of government rescue funding
PUBLISHED: 13:10 21 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:15 21 April 2020
A flower shop says it faces going under because of a funding loophole which means it does not qualify for a £10,000 lifeline.
Government grants of up to £25,000 have been made available to businesses in lockdown to help them weather the coronavirus crisis.
But The Flower Shop at the entrance to Great Yarmouth’s Market Gates says because the payments are being distributed through the business rates system, concessions and small units in shopping malls cannot access the money as they pay rates indirectly with their rent.
Nick Pegge, a director of The Flower Shop along with his wife Karen, said it was an unfortunate loophole which could spell the end for the town centre’s last remaining florist.
He said: “It is a great scheme, unfortunately the delivery method is flawed.
“With the government grant, or any favourable financial help from Great Yarmouth Borough Council, we can pay staff, bills and overheads, keep trading, and maintain a well-established retail business in the town.
“When businesses reopen it will be a very tough trading year, and we are prepared to roll up our sleeves and continue to support our community.
“Although we are a non-essential business we bring colour to the town and help customers through difficult times , such as funerals, as well as happy times like weddings and birthdays.”
The shop has three full-time employees.
Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis hailed the borough council for its work getting financial aid to businesses quickly and said he was raising the shop’s issue at the highest level.
He said: ““Covid-19 is the biggest public health emergency in modern history, and as a nation and a world we have already experienced severe economic pressure because of it.
“The Government has announced a wide ranging program of support for businesses and individuals, including grants, which offer support to the vast majority of firms. Locally residents, will be pleased to know that Great Yarmouth Borough Council is one of the most proactive councils in issuing these grants.
“I do however appreciate that in certain circumstances not every firm is eligible, and I am in discussions with senior ministers on this issue.”
Great Yarmouth Borough Council said in a statement: “As part of the Norfolk-wide response, the council is working closely with partners to ensure our local businesses get the support they are entitled to during these challenging times, including administering the Government’s relief grants.
“The Government has put in place strict eligibility criteria for administering its grant money which all councils must follow.
“One stipulation is grants can only be paid to those liable for paying business rates and, unfortunately, this impacts the eligibility of some businesses which effectively pay a contribution towards business rates via their landlord as part of their rental agreement.
“While the council has no local flexibility to change this national scheme, and no capacity to start offering business loans, we have listened to local concerns and raised this as an issue via Brandon Lewis MP, New Anglia LEP, the Local Government Association and the District Councils Network.
“Even when a business does not qualify for a grant, however, they may be able to receive other support and are encouraged to get in touch via our dedicated Business Helpline on 0808 196 2240.”
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