A CRAFT shop owner is ‘frustrated’ with the amount of time it has taken for Cherwell District Council to offer a Covid business grant.

Chris Crombie, founder of cCrafts which opened in Bicester in October, was hoping to apply for the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) when it was first announced by the Government on November 12.

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It provides local councils with grant funding to support closed businesses that do not directly pay business rates as well as businesses that do not have to close but which are impacted by the pandemic.

But almost four weeks after its announcement and by the time the second lockdown ended, Cherwell District Council had not made it possible for businesses to apply.

Mr Crombie says the delay will be felt amongst small businesses in Bicester who have struggled to survive this year.

He said: “I do think that Cherwell have dragged their heals on this one and doubtlessly small businesses in Bicester that are relying on these monies will have been suffering without it or worse, have had to cease trading.

“Given that a similar Government pool of money was made available during the first lockdown for businesses who don’t pay rates, there was surely already an infrastructure in place at the council that could have been reused.”

Oxford Mail: Chris Crombie opened cCrafts in Bicester in OctoberChris Crombie opened cCrafts in Bicester in October

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In comparison, Mr Crombie was able to apply for the grant for his two other cCrafts branches in Warrington and Bristol. It was made available on November 12 by North Somerset District Council and he applied for the monies on the same day which were then cleared into his bank account in four days.

He is therefore disappointed that Cherwell has not acted as quickly, particularly as he says the second lockdown meant his arts and crafts shop was closed during what is usually the busiest time of the year.

He said: “My business falls into the category of business that the ARG is targeted to support.

"Thankfully we’re finally back open today however, the four weeks we were forced to close are usually the biggest weeks of the year; we will never get this business back as it has been swallowed up by online retailers and larger competitor retailers which, some tenuously, have decided to remain open.”

Businesses can now apply for the ARG on the Cherwell website.

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A spokesperson said: “Councils all over the country have needed time to put robust systems and policies in place for distributing this funding in a fair and equitable way.

“We are working hard to get the grants to where they are needed as soon as possible.”