High street agents get mixed response to government grant requests

Local authorities have begun handing out lockdown grants to high street travel retailers but some agents say they have yet to hear if they will receive aid.

The mixed picture comes as Abta continues to lobby to ensure all high street agents in England receive the same support after confusion sparked by their removal from the list of non-essential shops, confirmed by government last week as it said agents were able to operate remotely.

This week, the issue reached the House of Lords, where Lord Callanan, Parliamentary under-secretary for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, promised to “look into the issue” amid concerns agents were no longer listed as eligible for grant aid from local councils.

Local Restrictions Support Grants (LRSG) are worth up to £3,000 a month and are distributed at the discretion of local authorities.

Haslemere Travel owner Gemma Antrobus received a £2,000 grant for her shop within five days from Waverley Borough Council in Surrey. She advised agents to apply, adding: “Make sure you state your case in the form – plead your case.”

Swords Travel received a £1,300 grant for its Wimbledon shop within days of applying to Merton Council, but joint owner Stuart Swords said some agents in neighbouring London boroughs had yet to receive payouts.

“We thought we were going to have a fight on our hands,” he said. “I couldn’t quite believe it was so quick.”

Other agents said they were in the dark as to their eligibility for payouts.

Carolyn Park, managing director of C The World, has applied to different authorities for grants for each of her three shops and is still awaiting answers.

She said: “For one I had to give proof of ID and bank account; for the others, I didn’t. Where’s the consistency? It’s time-consuming, especially if they say no.”

Spear Travels chairman Peter Cookson said the process was labour intensive for 12 branches in different local authority areas. He said: “It’s not straightforward, unlike the previous £10,000 and £25,000 grants, which took five minutes. Some councils want loads of information and some have already decided the industries they will give money to.”

Abta said agents could still be eligible for a discretionary Additional Restrictions Grant if they are unable to access an LRSG.

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