Hundreds of businesses failed to apply for £50,000 Stormont Covid-19 support grant

Large gyms around the north were among the businesses thought to be line for the Large NAV Grant.
Ryan McAleer

UP to 400 businesses in the north which qualified for a £50,000 Stormont grant failed to submit an application for the scheme, it has emerged.

The Large NAV Grant was targeted at firms operating from premises with a rateable value above £51,000 that missed out on a grant in the first lockdown.

The Department of Finance said it calculated that 1,125 businesses stood to benefit from the grant, ranging from retailers and car dealers, to garden centres, gyms, equestrian centres and caravan parks.

Despite Land and Property Services (LPS) writing to eligible businesses encouraging them to apply and the window for applications being extended, just 729 applied by the close of the final deadline on Friday night.

A total of £56.3 million had originally been earmarked for the scheme. But the maximum pay-out could now be just £36.45m.

The final sum may be lower, as some businesses which benefited from previous funding may not receive the full £50,000.

The Large NAV Grant was one of three Covid-19 support schemes announced by Finance Minister Conor Murphy in March as part of a £178m business support package.

It was a move to allocate unspent money from Stormont's 2020/21 budget to avoid it being sent back to the Treasury.

But some of the funding could still be heading back to London.

It remained unclear yesterday how much the Department of Finance will be able to retain and carry into its 2021/22 spending.

The UK Treasury normally has a strict cap on the combined total Stormont's departments can carry over from what cannot be spent from one financial year to the next.

The Treasury did show more flexibility this year, allowing Stormont to carry over significantly more funding than normal. But that flexibility was largely restricted to Covid-19 funding allocated around Christmas time.

The Department of Finance has also confirmed that an automatic £25,000 payment to small and medium manufacturers also hit a lower target that anticipated.

DoF paid out £20.695m under the Manufacturing (Industrial Derating) Support Grant to 859 businesses.

It had been thought that 1,106 firms would share in a £27.65m fund. But it's thought that a combination of factors, including businesses entering administration, cut that number by almost 250.

In a statement, DoF said: “The payments for these grants have not yet all been issued. Once the payments have been completed and the full spend amount is known, this will then be considered in the wider context of spend for 2020/21 for all departments and the flexibility provided for carry forward.”

Meanwhile the third grant scheme under the £178m package, worth around £95m, will begin automatically issuing payments of £10,000 and £5,000 before the end of May.

Around 16,000 are in line for the £5,000 with 1,600 expected to get the £10,000.

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