Last month Hastings Borough Council (HBC) announced that it had received a little over £1.4m from central government in cash grants to compensate hospitality businesses for the loss of custom over the Christmas/New Year period resulting from the sudden surge of the Omicron variant. There are two alternative grant allocations: the Omicron Hospitality and Leisure (OHL) scheme for businesses paying rates, offering a maximum of £6,000 per venue; and the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) which is available for those that are not paying rates but can still show an attributable loss of revenue.

Cllr Peter Chowney, who holds the finance portfolio at HBC, told last week’s full council meeting that over £1.05m of OHL funds had been distributed by the council so far, and £100,000 of ARGs. But this leaves around £200,000 in the former category and £50,000 in the latter still to be claimed. If there is an unclaimed surplus in the ARG fund, the council will be able to relax the criteria so as to ensure that the full amount is dispensed. Cllr Chowney expressed concern, however, that that won’t apply to any OHL surplus. 

“If you do know anyone out there who you think is entitled to that grant, do get them to apply … Any money left at the end of it has to be sent back to the government, and I think we’d all much rather it was distributed in Hastings if we possibly can”.

Businesses eligible to claim under the OHL scheme include:

• pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels 

• cinemas, theatres, concert halls

• tourist attractions such as amusement parks, historic houses, theme parks

• wedding and events venues

• child play centres

• clubs and institutions including village halls

• holiday apartments, B&Bs, catered holiday homes.

Retail shops, food takeaways, and venues offering personal services such as hairdressers and beauty salons are excluded.

Cllr Chowney also revealed that HBC is still dispensing financial help under another government-funded scheme, the Household Support Fund, in the form of food vouchers and utility bill contributions to individual families. A total of £201,000 had been paid out to 859 recipients in Hastings, with another 373 applications still being processed.

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