Nottingham City Council has paid its full allocation of discretionary grants to small businesses, called the Nottingham Small Business Fund, but councillors say they wish they could have achieved more.

Over £3.3 million has been paid to around 500 applicants, including businesses in shared office spaces, market traders and charities after Nottingham City Council led the way in lobbying for support for these businesses, who were left out of the government’s initial support for small businesses. This led to Central Government announcing a £617 million fund for councils to use at their discretion, £3.3 million of which was awarded to Nottingham City Council.

At the time, Councillor Sam Webster, Portfolio Holder for Finance, Growth and the City Centre, warned that the support was welcome but unlikely to support all applicants, and while the council was able to invite applicants to apply for a second round of funds after initially allocating £2.5 million to applicants, the second round was closed two days early due to excessive demand.

Councillor Leslie Ayoola, Executive Assistant for Regeneration and Safe Nottingham, said: “While Nottingham City Council was pleased its lobbying of government for additional funds for excluded businesses was successful, we were disappointed with the amount allocated to us. Extra support is always welcome, but £3.3 million had to be spread very thinly and ultimately we don’t feel we were able to support as many businesses as needed it and wish we could have achieved more. Our own estimate was that it would need more like 25% of the previous grant scheme, around £15 million, to allocate fairly a reasonable grant settlement to businesses.

“We were able to point some applicants to the government’s small business support scheme we administer on their behalf. But with overwhelming demand for discretionary grant support, we knew the scheme was pitting businesses against each other at a time when Nottingham has worked so hard together to keep the local economy going, protect jobs and provide opportunities for people in the city. While we’ve supported 500 businesses, market traders and charities, we could easily have supported 500 more.

“The government said at the start of the pandemic they would stand shoulder to shoulder with local councils and support them through the pandemic crisis – instead, we estimate the financial impact of Covid-19 on local services in Nottingham to be around £85m, leaving us and other councils well short of what was pledged and is required from Government.  

“I have a great deal of sympathy with small businesses who have seen promises of support to protect the country’s economy and been excluded from these schemes, and would urge government to continue to address the problems Nottingham and Britain faces rather than congratulate itself on a job well done.

“The job isn’t finished yet, and if it stays unfinished, businesses will fold, job and redevelopment opportunities will be lost and the economic recovery we all want to see to support our national pandemic recovery could stall.”