West Northamptonshire Council offering new grant for hospitality and leisure but not everyone agrees on who should qualify

Gyms and salons are upset that they will not get the funds despite being public-facing too

Friday, 14th January 2022, 4:55 pm

West Northamptonshire Council is offering a new grant for the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors, but some have complained after being deemed ineligible for the funds, despite their public-facing roles.

The so-named Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant scheme aims to support businesses that offer in-person services, where the main service takes place in fixed rate-paying premises that trade in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors.

In a grants worth between £2,667 and £6,000, the money will go to eligible businesses in Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire, depending on the rateable value of the business' premises.

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Government data suggests that accommodated sectors have been most affected by the emergence of Omicron

Councillor Malcolm Longley, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “We want to support as many businesses as possible throughout the pandemic, and we know that hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors were affected by this latest wave, especially over the festive period.”

Councillor Lizzy Bowen, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Town Centre Regeneration and Growth, added: “We continue to do all that we can to secure economic prosperity within West Northamptonshire and rapidly recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Yet some businesses have been excluded from the funds.

Personal care businesses, such as hairdressers, beauty salons and tattoo artists are not eligible for a grant, nor are gyms or sports businesses. This decision is based on the latest central government guidance published on the January 12. Although, those excluded from this grant may still be allowed to apply for an Additional Restrictions Grant until January 24.

Jason Berrington was gym manager and joint shareholder of independent powerlifting gym Strength Lab, in Bridge Street, which had to stop trading on the December 31, 2021 after only nine months in business.

He said that, while gyms did benefit from some funds during the lockdowns, even those were not sufficient to keep some independent businesses like his afloat.

He said: "They are happy to fund pubs and restaurants and things that often aren't great for people's health, yet funds for the businesses that actually improve people's health are once again at the bottom of the list.

"The three main causes of people taking time off work due to health include back pain and mental health challenges, for each of which the NHS recommends physical exercise."

The former manager also challenged the use of square footage to decide who gets what.

He said: "Overall, we got about £52,000 in Covid grants and loans after gyms had to close.

"That might be a lot for some businesses of a similar square footage to ours, I know of some who were even able to expand with that money, but when our overheads were around £144,000 a year, it was barely a drop in the bucket.

"Instead of saying 'any business of X square footage gets X money', they should take a more means test-like approach where they consider the needs of each business individually, not just by their size or industry."

The deadline for the Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant is Monday February 28.

Anyone who is interested can visit West Northamptonshire Council's website.

The council also offers free business and employment support to all businesses in the West Northamptonshire area which can be found separately.