Plea for support for home-based businesses rejected for discretionary funding

Blackdown House, East Devon District Council's Honiton headquarters. Picture: Dan WIlkins

Blackdown House, East Devon District Council's Honiton headquarters. Picture: Dan WIlkins - Credit: Archant

A plea has been made to help the home-based businesses in East Devon rejected for funding support during the coronavirus crisis.

The Discretionary Grants Scheme allows East Devon District Council to allocate money from central government to businesses in need of support.

However, some home-based business owners have been rejected for support as they do not have ‘substantial’ fixed premises costs, despite struggling to keep their companies running through the crisis.

A letter signed by 18 home-based East Devon business owners has been sent to East Devon District Council (EDDC) chief executive Mark Williams calling for a change in the council’s selection criteria.

The letter also lists the local authorities, including Exeter City Council, which do offer help to home-based firms.

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However, East Devon District Council said its policy is consistent with the majority of local authorities and is under constant review.

The letter said: “It is ironic that home-based businesses should be excluded from council support when the government’s solution to the Covid crisis was to encourage people who worked in offices to work from home. Yet those of us who were already working from home now appear to be being punished for doing so.”

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Andrew Johnstone, director of West Hill-based television company Wild Dog Limited, has had his planned filming cancelled due to Covid-19.

He said his business is likely to experience a 70 per cent fall in revenue compared to 2019 and that home-based businesses like his are being excluded from help.

Alison Jobson, who runs Straight Marketing from her Exmouth home, has experienced a 50 per cent loss of income during lockdown.

She said some funding would be a ‘massive’ boost.

Mrs Jobson added: “I have had to take mortgage holiday but my worry is not what’s happening now it’s more what is coming so funding would be a buffer.”

An EDDC spokesman said: “We have sought to prioritise businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors or that supply to those sectors.

“These local priorities are considered to best reflect the structure of our economy.

“Our policy also makes it clear that alongside demonstrating a loss of income, businesses must also be able to evidence high on-going fixed property costs.”

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