CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Political row over coronavirus rescue money for businesses

Tory leader says automatic cheques should be sent out

12 June, 2020 — By Richard Osley

Conservative group leader Oliver Cooper

A ROW broke out between political rivals over rescue grant money locked up at the Town Hall as the Conservatives continued to demand that cheques are automatically sent out to eligible businesses.

The council has already passed on around £66 million in £10,000 and £25,000 government grants, but around £9 million stands unclaimed despite the ongoing crisis. Camden’s regeneration chief Councillor Danny Beales said the idea of cheques would not be used, partly because some businesses have already ceased operating.

He said: “Cheques are a piece of paper and if they’re sitting on someone’s front porch of a closed-down business, that makes no difference to that business whatsoever. Money in people’s hands is what matters. What we’ve found from visiting these businesses is actually many have closed down and they’re no longer in operation.”

He added sending cheques would not be a “sensible use of public money and I think the auditors would have something to say about that”.

Conservative group leader Councillor Oliver Cooper has repeatedly called on the council to send out cheques to company directors as a way of getting to people who do not realised they are entitled to the financial help. He said if they had not been cashed within two weeks they could be cancelled.

The pair clashed – over videocall technology – at a meeting of the Covid-19 Oversight Committee.

Cllr Cooper questioned whether businesses no longer trading had gone under because they had not got the grant they were entitled to.

“Clearly we need a reappraisal,” Cllr Cooper said. “We could send cheques to directors’ home addresses which in most cases we have, because they are on Companies House if nowhere else.”

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