MPs have put further pressure on councils in England to ensure restart grants are paid out to hospitality businesses as quickly as possible.
The scheme, which offers one-off payments of up to £18,000 for the hospitality, leisure, accommodation, personal care and gym sectors, launches today (1 April).
Government guidance already urged councils to be swift with payments and now business minister Paul Scully and Nigel Huddleston, minister for sport and tourism, have written to local authorities to press the issue.
Some councils faced criticism for slow payment of previous support grants, with hospitality owners describing the process as a "total farce" and "painful".
The letter reads: "It's vital that funds are paid out as quickly as possible to those that need it and many local authorities have risen to the challenge. However, some have taken too long to do so, which is why we are writing to all local authorities encouraging you to press on and continue to get this money to businesses in good time to ensure your communities are ready to build back better following the pandemic."
An additional £425m top-up for the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) scheme is being made available to councils from today. This is to support firms which fall outside the business rates system, such as mobile caterers and events industry providers.
Scully and Huddleston also urged councils to be "as flexible as possible" in allowing pubs, cafes and restaurants to open outdoor seating areas and host outside events.
"Businesses are counting on you to deliver this urgent support and be as flexible as possible to see them through what will hopefully be the final few months of restrictions," they wrote.
Under the restart grant scheme businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or under as of 1 April 2021 will receive a one-off grant of £8,000. Those with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000 will receive £12,000; while £18,000 is available for those with a rateable value of over £51,000.