TWO businessmen who protested outside Swindon Borough Council’s offices with a huge truck have finally been awarded the government support they wanted.
But one of them feels he should not have had to fight so hard for it.
When engineer Nigel Hannon parked his vehicle outside Swindon Borough Council’s offices in April and spoke to the Adver in near despair, both he and the owner of a neighbouring business were hoping to be given funding promised to small businesses to help them through lockdown.
Mr Hannon’s business, Scorpion Engineering, is a vehicle recovery and repair business that operates out of the same large building in the Hawksworth Trading Estate as Smart Car UK. The body repair shop is run by Phil Merritt.
At the time a calculation of the rateable value of the building meant neither were deemed eligible by the council for the support as it exceeded the £51,000 per year cut-off, even though each individual firm each paid a fraction of that, as they only used part of it.
Scorpion Engineering pays £20,000 a year in national non-domestic rates – commonly called business rate support.
Now both businesses have been given £10,000 in support by Whitehall’s Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy– a vital lifeline to keep them afloat.
But Mr Hannon received his sometime later than Mr Merritt’s company did.
He said: “They gave Smart Car UK £10,000 after we protested, but we still didn’t get anything.
“It’s finally come through now, but we had to get quite heavy. I’d got the Adver involved and my MP Justin Tomlinson and then we got discrimination lawyers involved.
“I’m glad that we’ve got the money, but I feel I shouldn’t have had to fight so hard for it.
“I was talking to a self-employed builder friend who said the council chased him to put in his form and paid him within days, even though he doesn’t pay any business rates. And it’s taken me four months of phone calls and emails and really having to fight for it.”
Mr Hannon said he was grateful to Mr Tomlinson and the Adver for their support.
A Swindon Borough Council spokesman said: “We are pleased that Mr Hannon has been given the support to which he is entitled. The rules around eligibility for the business support grants were set by the government and our role was merely to administer the money on the government’s behalf, which we did in a timely fashion.
“So far we have provided more than £28.9m in funding to a total of 2,300 eligible businesses, and we are pleased that the problems with Mr Hannon’s application have been resolved.”