BUSINESSES in Tendring have received more than £56 million in Covid support grants since the start of the pandemic, a report has revealed.

Almost 2,300 companies in the district have been given payments by Tendring Council administering the government’s various schemes.

At the same time as supporting these businesses, the council has also prevented payments totalling more than £800,000 going to firms whose claims were not eligible or even fraudulent.

Carlo Guglielmi, Tendring councillor responsible for finance and corporate resources, said the figures showed just how important it was to get the schemes right.

“We know this funding has been a lifeline for businesses during the pandemic, and it is fantastic to see just how much has gone to help Tendring-based firms since March 2020,” he said.

“We have administered nine government schemes which have all supported businesses both when they were forced to close, and once they re-opened to get back on their feet – the net effect being to help the local economy and protect jobs for our residents.

“The council’s response to Covid-19 has been wide-ranging, and the business support grants have been a huge part of that – not only in terms of the amounts of money involved, but the logistics of getting systems set up to administer payments from a team which usually collects them.

“We worked as quickly as we could to get cash into the accounts of legitimate businesses who needed it. At times firms did have to wait while the proper checks were carried out, and I hope they can understand just how important those checks were.”

One example of false claim was a company creating a sham lease for business premises which they did not occupy. The location was visited as part of the grant checks as it became apparent nationally that some firms would commit fraud, thinking the opportunity outweighed the risk of being caught.

Other examples included landlords claiming instead of their tenants, or creating false leases for friends and family.

The council revealed it has also collected back almost £100,000 in payments which were incorrectly claimed.

Mr Guglielmi added: “Alongside our work to support the local economy, we have a duty to protect the public purse and look after taxpayers’ money.

“This applies both in terms of our day-to-day operations, and also through the work of our anti-fraud team, and in this case both have been outstanding – often applying local knowledge.”

In total £56.451m has been given to companies across the nine business support grant schemes.