More than 9,000 organisations have been supported by the Council since the beginning of the pandemic, with a range of rate relief and cash grants giving a lifeline to some of the city’s businesses.
As the country went into lockdown, the Government provided an initial two tiers of grant funding for businesses - Small Business Rate Grant and Retail Leisure and Entertainment Grant - and followed-up with a discretionary grant for businesses not eligible for the previous funding. Rate relief was also provided for small businesses and those directly involved in retail, leisure and entertainment.
Manchester was provided £108.64m as part of the initial Small Business Rate (up to £10k per business) and Retail, Leisure and Entertainment (up to £25k per business) grants.
To date we have paid out 7,851 grants totalling £99.16 million and representing 87.4% of payments. The remainder of applications are made up of complex cases where Council officers are working with businesses to process payments as quickly as possible.
These two grant funds remain active and if businesses still require support and have not applied for funding already it is not too late.
At the end of May, Manchester was provided £5.1m as part of the latter discretionary fund which has already been distributed to support 885 of businesses, and the fund will be fully spent by the end of July.
The Council has also provided 100% business rate relief worth £145.5m to 3,918 businesses and relief to 77 nurseries worth £855k.
Lea Recruitment Consultancy Ltd - Discretionary Fund recipient (Picture attached)
Ally Lee runs a recruitment consultancy business specialising in IT and telecommunications from a managed service office near the Airport.
The business resides in an all-inclusive space, which means her business is located in premises which do not have a rateable value and therefore was ineligible for the initial round of business grant support from the Government.
Ally said: “I went from being a thriving business one day to all my work being cancelled within 48hrs - and there was no end in sight. It was heart-breaking to find out from the Council that I wasn’t eligible for the initial grants because of the guidelines put forward by the Government.
“I realised that small businesses in my building and across the city would be in the same situation. Small businesses generate a huge amount to the city’s economy, but we’re also vulnerable and being unable to access financial support could’ve meant disaster. It felt like such an injustice”
Ally remained in close contact with the Council - with support from her property management company, Colliers - and the Council began lobbying the Government for a new fund to be set up to help those that had missed out.
Ally continued: “When the discretionary grant scheme was announced the Council were very clear that the fund was limited and there wouldn’t be enough for every business. I really appreciated that honesty and transparency. And I know some Councils aren’t making discretionary payments at all, so the sense of relief when I found out the business was going to get help was huge.
“My alternative was getting a loan, which would’ve put a massive burden on the business at a time when it wasn’t clear when work was going to return. The help I got from the Council made me and other small businesses feel like we are valued. So a huge thanks to them for lobbying the Government with us and on our behalf.
“We’re now back up and running and it’s a relief to know that our bills are paid for a couple of months while we concentrate on the recovery and future of the business.”
Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “It’s an incredible feat to have supported more than 9,000 businesses with more than a quarter of a billion pounds worth of grant and relief support in just a few months. However, it was a vital lifeline for many businesses across the city that simply could not have survived the economic impact of lockdown.
“We felt that as the grant funding support was made up of public money, it was important that we carefully audited applications to avoid fraudulent payments - and we can say that we have supported only legitimate businesses.
“While keeping a close eye on the continuing public health response to manage the virus, our focus now must be on the city’s economic recovery. So if you own a business that needs support and you haven’t applied for either the small business or the retail leisure and entertainment grants and rate relief yet, there is still time as long as you act quickly.”