Millions of pounds distributed to Eastbourne businesses during lockdown

Eastbourne officials have been recognised for providing millions of pounds to local businesses during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

Friday, 7th August 2020, 3:08 pm
Danny Alexander with David Tutt Leader of Eastbourne Council

Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC) has been praised for supporting local business through innovation during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has highlighted the council’s dedicated portal that delivers covid-19 business grants, as an example of good practice using a digital solution.

Leader of EBC David Tutt said, “It was so important businesses received this help quickly and I’m very proud we put a system in place that meant eligible local businesses were given funds in a fast and secure manner.

“We reacted rapidly to get this portal developed and operating efficiently, allowing thousands of firms to get much-needed money at a very difficult time.”

An EBC spokesperson said the new portal was launched on April 9 to administer the Small Business Grant Fund and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund, of between £10,000 or £25,000 per business, in response to acute challenges firms were facing.

Using a mostly automated system, the Eastbourne and Lewes councils processed 2,642 grants - to the total value of nearly £34.1m - by the first week of May, according to EBC.

The council said if the grants had been handled manually, it is estimated around 20 full-time staff would have been needed to achieve this result, compared to the five staff who worked on the project.

EBC said it partnered with digital company Ascendant Solutions to develop the ‘ground-breaking’ portal which overlays multiple sources of data to check that claims are valid.

Applicants firstly register with the portal and then complete a form. This application is checked and verified using a number of algorithms before being assessed for eligibility for a grant.

Those that meet all the checks and criteria are deemed ‘green’ and received grants immediately.

Cases marked ‘amber’ are considered low risk, but in need of further checks as some basic information is missing.

Meanwhile, ‘red’ is considered higher risk with these applications requiring thorough checking and often further evidence if grants are to be approved.

EBC said the system has built in measures to save time on processing ineligible applications and protect against exploitation of grants, which has presented a risk to many councils across the UK due to the pressure to distribute money quickly.

The full case study can be read on the LGA website here local.gov.uk/covid-19-good-council-practice under cyber and digital solutions.

EBC said time is running out for businesses still wishing to apply for a grant. For more information, visit lewes-eastbourne.gov.uk/community/covid-19/help-for-businesses/small-business-grant-fund/

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