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Tories slam "confusion" over coronavirus business support payments

By Alan Beresford

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THE provision of Scottish Government Covid support grants to businesses in Moray is “mired in confusion”, two Moray Scottish Conservative politicians have claimed.

Douglas Ross MP (left) and Councillor Tim Eaglehave raised concerns over "confusion" in the administering business support grants. Picture:Moray Conservatives
Douglas Ross MP (left) and Councillor Tim Eaglehave raised concerns over "confusion" in the administering business support grants. Picture:Moray Conservatives

Moray Council is administering grant schemes on behalf of the government to help businesses cope with the impact of the pandemic.

However, concerns have been raised that the local authority is struggling with a lack of guidance provided by the Scottish Government, along with demands for updates on a wide range of different funds at different times.

It has been suggested that Scottish Ministers have frequently announced grant schemes before details are provided to councils, while those details are then subject to revision with no further update.

Scottish Conservative MP for Moray Douglas Ross said Moray Council has no additional staff to help cope with the growing demand and an increasing administrative burden.

He continued: “We know that the SNP government has been far too slow to get funding from the UK government out the door to the businesses and people that need it.

“But now we hear that local delivery of the multiple grant schemes is mired in confusion.

“Moray Council will be working extremely hard to process these grants and get the money out to businesses that sorely need it.

“But that job is being made a lot more difficult due to a lack of guidance from the government on how the schemes will operate – which then appears to be subject to change.

“This is not good enough and I would urge Scottish Ministers to work with council leaders in Moray and elsewhere in the country to simplify this process.”

The leader of the Tory group on Moray Council and the party's candidate for Moray in May's Holyrood elections, Buckie councillor Tim Eagle, said: “We know that 12 new funding schemes have been announced in January alone, some of which are not even open yet.

“That is on top of all the other funds from different government departments – all of which appear to have different rules that can then be subject to change.

“It is a very complex system for the council to navigate – particularly when there is a lack of guidance and no extra resources to help cope with the increased workload.

“Obviously, the council wants to get the support out to those that need it as quickly as possible.

“But that is easier said than done when there is such confusion about how these systems are supposed to work.”

However, Moray SNP MSP Richard Lochhead hit back at the claims, saying that substantial resrouces had been devoted to supporting businesses by the Scottish Government.

He continued: "The Scottish Government has allocated £3 billion in business support since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, on top of support available through the UK government.

"The Scottish Government has also provided local authorities with an additional £12 million to help them recruit staff and speed up payments.

"Instead of criticising the staff who are working extremely hard to get this lifeline support out the door, Douglas Ross should be apologising to the Moray businesses who were misled by the Tory government's pledge of an extra £375 million in funding.

"The Tories were quick to welcome the supposed extra £375 million in support, but after the Treasury backtracked and it became clear that there would be no additional funding, it seems they've gone into hiding.

"The Tory government must hand over the £375 million in extra funding that was promised in black and white without delay.”

Moray Council stated that grant processing was a priority.

A council spokesperson continued: “Our Economic Development team is prioritising the processing of business grants, supported by additional staff, as we recognise the importance of maximising the money being distributed locally.

"Although it represents a significant increase in workload on top of the economic recovery plan agreed in October, we are up-to-date with registering the applications, which are now going through the checking and processing stages.

“We’re urging all applicants to ensure forms are completed correctly, with the necessary documents attached, as this helps us speed up the process further.”

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