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Leader in £10 million government plea

The leader of Dudley Council has written to the government to ask if nearly £10 million in unallocated business grants can be used to support the borough’s tourist attractions and town centres fight back from the coronavirus crisis.

The council has paid out more than £52 million to more than 4,500 borough businesses, and at one stage was paying out more than £1 million per day.

Applications are slowing but council bosses expect to hand out around £57 million of the £66.6 million allocated in March.

Council leader Patrick Harley has written to Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to ask if the local authority can retain the surplus funds to “support business recovery”.

The letter refers specifically to helping the Black Country Living Museum and Dudley Zoo re-open and “weather the challenge of social distancing” to survive the losses caused by closure as a result of the pandemic. The cash would also be used to support High Street businesses bounce back, the letter says.

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of the council, said:

"The business grants from the government have been an invaluable lifeline for many firms in the borough, and for that we are very grateful.

"We have widely promoted the grant schemes online, in conventional media and through partners and have successfully delivered more than £50 million to help borough businesses stay afloat and survive the coronavirus pandemic.

"We will be also be launching further rounds of the discretionary fund to make sure we can pay out and help as many borough businesses as possible.

"That said, we anticipate with applications slowing down that we will have nearly £10 million left over, and I am writing to the minister to ask if we can keep that money to continue to support our business recovery.

"There are a number of immediate and potential challenges for which this money could be well used. This includes supporting shops and businesses in our town centres and our renowned tourist attractions such as the zoo and the museum, who have been hit very hard."

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