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Local authority administered COVID grant schemes


COVID-19 pandemic restrictions varied over time and between different parts of the country, but all had an impact on businesses, many of which were forced to temporarily close or curtail their operations. The government announced in early March 2020 that it would provide grants, administered by local authorities, to support smaller businesses in England.

The National Audit Office has said in its report that government achieved its primary objective to deliver financial support to businesses quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic. BEIS prioritised speed over conducting pre-payment checks for the schemes launched at the start of the pandemic, but did not then act quickly to conduct follow-up checks.

As the PAC has also reported, the delays in following-up have made the recovery of amounts wrongly paid more difficult to achieve. Department for Business and Trade (DBT), which is now responsible for these schemes, has still to report on the impact of these grants: for example in terms of maintaining jobs and how much support might have been given to businesses that did not need it. Without such an assessment an overall judgement about the value for money of the schemes remains open.

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, commenting on the NAO’s findings, said:

 “Government moved at speed to provide grants to businesses to support the high street during the pandemic.

“However in doing so, an estimated £1.1bn was lost to fraud and error, and to date only 1% of this has been recovered.

“It is now up to the Department for Business and Trade and the rest of government to act on the lessons from this experience it has learnt so it can be on the front foot for the next crisis.”

The Committee will question senior officials at the Department for Business and Trade and HM Treasury including on how effectively the government set up and delivered the grant schemes. If you have relevant evidence to inform this questioning, please submit it here by 23:59 on Wednesday 26 April.

Please have a look at the requirements for written evidence submissions and note the Committee cannot accept as evidence material that has been published elsewhere.