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Questions raised at full council on why traders at Tenby market unable to access COVID-19 grant support

QUESTIONS about how market traders in Tenby were unable to access Covid-19 grant support have been raised at full council.

Local member Cllr Michael Williams said that the scheme had been “a catalogue of disasters” for the traders.

At full council on Thursday (July 17) he asked when director of community services Dr Steven Jones became aware that the Tenby market traders were eligible to apply for Covid 19 business support grant assistance.

His question added: “Does he now accept that the initial advice that he and his department offered them over a period of months was totally incorrect, and following this does he agree that there should be a full inquiry into why and how this happened causing unnecessary concern and worries to these small business owners, as well as reputational damage to this authority?”

Dr Steven Jones said the initial advice from Welsh Government meant that the market, along with many other businesses, were exempt from the grants being provided due to the pandemic.

He told full council that when the scheme was first announced officers identified 1,800 business who would miss out including 89 farm diversification businesses, 27 market traders, 144 childcare businesses, 61 small charities, four beach concessions, five general concessions, 11 street traders and some licences for café culture and passenger vessels.

Gaps in the provision were raised with Welsh Government on a number of occasions.

Dr Jones apologised for not advising Tenby market traders to contact the Valuation Office Agency directly for information about obtaining details which would have resolved the matter sooner.

He added he became aware of their “eligibility to apply for business grants” when two traders contact the council with non-domestic rates numbers on June 19.

Council heard that other matters were also considered, including the market being considered a single unit with the authority paying rates meaning it was exempt from the scheme, the risk of rates increasing if a revaluation was carried out and the wait for more information on additional grants from Cardiff.

“This is a knotty issue, these matter weren’t straight forward and still may have consequences that haven’t been fully appreciated,” said Dr Jones.

Cllr Williams welcome Dr Jones’ apology, adding that the scheme had worked well for many but had “put these people though an incredible amount of worry.”

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