Dickson says business support scheme application process a shambles

Alliance Economy spokesperson Stewart Dickson MLA has said the application process for a new Department for the Economy grant scheme for small businesses is “a shambles”.

The COVID Restrictions Business Support Scheme was launched last night by Economy Minister Diane Dodds. It allows applications for £600 a week from businesses who don’t pay business rates, who have been forced to close under new restrictions, such as mobile hairdressers and driving instructors.
East Antrim MLA Mr Dickson said he had been contacted by several business owners unable to apply due to the application form.

“This application form is a shambles, difficult to fill in in some parts, virtually impossible in others,” he said.

“There are simple things like asking for a VAT number. But you don’t have to register for a VAT number unless your turnover is £85,000, so a small or new business won’t have one. The form is also asking for tax details many people won’t have because they’re held by accountants or others.

“This is a bureaucratic nightmare crafted by civil servants. While I would still encourage everyone to attempt to fill it in, if you are a mobile hairdresser who rents a chair in a salon or a driving instructor, the people this scheme is aimed at, this scheme has been made more difficult to apply.

“This needs urgently addressed by the Minister. The Departmental grant schemes earlier this year were criticised for not being launched quickly enough. While they appear to have learned that lesson, businesses in desperate need of support have now been left confused and frustrated in their ability to apply for that very support.”