Local authorities have been accused of dragging their feet on government grants designed to support pubs and restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic.
The complex requirements for applying for these funds have meant that less than one in four businesses in the pub sector, for example, have received the full payments they were entitled to during the autumn and winter months of 2020.
Major restaurant chains have also voiced concerns that they are still waiting to receive the majority of funds they are eligible for due to councils operating at different speeds.
Fulham Shore, which run the Franco Manca and The Real Greek chains, told the Telegraph that only four of its 70 sites have been paid what they are entitled to – the equivalent to £12,000 of the £160,000 it is owed.
A survey by the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) found that the ease of accessing government grant support varied wildly from one local authority area to another.
In particular, the grants designed to support pubs who could still open, but with very severe restrictions on their trade, (Local Restrictions Support Grant – OPEN) have caused confusion in local authorities and a delay or even denial of funds for the licensees who have had little or no income in 2020.
In addition, one in seven licensees have yet to receive a single payment into their banks from grants they are entitled to, the BII said.
CEO Steven Alton commented: “80% of the respondents of this survey are single-site operators, but for those running pubs across several local authority areas, the stark contrast from one local authority to another can clearly be seen.
“Some are getting it right first time, with swift payments and great communication, whilst others have not even made applications for grants announced months ago available on their websites.
“We have taken our findings to the heart of government, to call on them to make the process as simple as possible for all, and to support local authorities who are clearly struggling to cope with the additional demands placed on them.
Mr Alton noted that there were some examples of local authorities who have gone above and beyond to support their local hospitality businesses, through excellent communication, easy-to-navigate application processes online, and swift payments into accounts, as well as full utilisation of their discretional grant funding to specifically help pubs.
He said they were setting the standards that should be expected of all local authorities, but should also be able to provide valuable lessons for those struggling to cope with the complexity of the grant system.