A SMALL independent business faces bankruptcy after the council asked for its Covid-relief grant back.

Bampton House, a cosmetic products manufacturer, received £4,000 from West Oxfordshire District Council at the end of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The grant was part of a Government scheme which saw local authorities receiving funding to distribute to businesses to help offset the impact of the pandemic.

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However, Bampton House has been asked to repay the grant after the district council deemed it to have been 'unnecessary'.

Hollie Reynolds, who founded the business, said her company will ‘go under’ if she is forced to return the money.

“We don’t have £4,000 in our business account,” she said. “The last few years has taken its toll on us.

“The shops and markets we sold at were closed. We had about 10 Christmas fayres we usually attended that were all cancelled.

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“So we applied for the grant to compensate for our lack of earnings. Even if we misunderstood the application process, it was the council’s job to see if we were allowed that money, not to decide two years later to ask for it back.

“The pandemic hit us really hard and as a manufacturing company it has been massively difficult due to Brexit and the war in Ukraine impacting oil sales.”

Miss Reynolds claims the council is asking for the money back as she has a website which she could have been using to sell products when shops and fayres closed in 2020.

However, the founder said her website was ‘very different’ two years ago and was not built for that purpose at the time.

A council spokesperson said: “During the coronavirus pandemic, the council was asked by the Government to pay out over £48m in support to local businesses at high speed on their behalf.

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“We did all that we could at the time to support local businesses and we have continued to offer help during the recovery and ongoing as residents and businesses face new challenges this winter.

“With the Government’s covid-19 business support schemes now ended, we have been instructed by Government to identify and recover any grant funding issued to businesses that was not in accordance with the guidance issued at the time and return this to Government.

“This retrospective assessment is based on the guidance, is not subjective and unfortunately there is no discretion available to us other than to work with affected businesses to explain the reasons why the grant funding needs to be repaid and help them to agree payment solutions to minimise the impact on the business where possible.”


Read more from this author

This story was written by Gee Harland. She joined the team in 2022 as a senior multimedia reporter.

Gee covers Wallingford, Wantage and Didcot.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Gee.harland@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @Geeharland

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