MP Robert Halfon hits back at Harlow council over financial support for businesses

HARLOW MP Robert Halfon has hit back at claims that he “lied” over his assertion that Harlow businesses had not received financial support.

On Tuesday, Mr Halfon issued a press release where he raised concerns that Harlow Council had failed to distribute government grants to local businesses.

He used a direct example of Carol Bush of The Golden Swift. See below.

Harlow councillors immediately hit back. Cllr Mark Ingall went onto BBC Essex and Councillor Mike Danvers made the following comment on our Facebook page.

He said: “Cheap political point. The pub concerned did receive its grants in November, December.

“Harlow Council staff are working flat out to help local businesses and these lies are not helping morale”.

Robert Halfon’s office got back in touch with us and stated that businesses such as Mrs Bush at The Golden Swift had not received payments referred to as Harlow Council were, in late December, still working on setting up relevant application process.

A Harlow Council spokesperson said:

“Our staff have worked extremely hard to ensure that business and residents have got the financial support that they are entitled since the first lockdown in March.

“This has been during a time when they have also had to deal with hundreds of extra phone and email enquiries relating to council tax, benefits and business rate support.

“Between March 2020 and today more than £30m in grants have been processed and distributed to support business who are eligible and have applied for support.

“This amounts to some 1,790 different transactions with each one having to be checked and verified before payment. This financial support includes business rate relief, small business, retail and leisure grants, discretionary grants, local restriction grants, additional restrictions discretionary grants, and Christmas support for pubs.

“Some businesses have benefitted from more than one grant due to being affected by different restrictions. Staff have also had to deal with the disappointment of telling businesses where they are unfortunately not eligible for any support under the schemes.

Since November staff have distributed over £420,000 to 245 business who have applied and are eligible for local restriction and additional restriction grants.

“On 17 December 2020 staff emailed 30 pubs in the town about Christmas support payments, but to date have only received eight applications. Three grants of £1,000 were paid out before Christmas, and payments will continue to be made to those eligible.

As well as supporting businesses, staff have also issued over £820,000 in hardship payments to 6,260 households claiming council tax support and issued 48 payments totalling £24,000 to residents who have had to self-isolate at home. Applications for self-isolation payments are likely to increase as community testing is rolled out. Changes to instalments have also been made to hundreds of individual council tax accounts to help people who are struggling with their bills.

Our staff have done and continue to do fantastically well to keep up with all the government grant changes, tier and lockdown announcements while ensuring that business and residents get the support they need as quickly as possible. Every time a new grant is announced detailed guidance follows which has to be read and our systems have to be updated to ensure that the right businesses get the right amount of money in the easiest way possible. But, our staff will always do this as quickly as they can, because they recognise how important it is that business and residents get the financial support they need. Our staff deserve our support and praise at this time.

“All the information on the current grants available to business and the support available to residents during this pandemic can be found on our website at www.harlow.gov.uk/coronavirus. Our website continues to be updated with the latest developments.

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