The Cornwall Council leader has called on second home owners to ‘get back to their moral fiber’ before applying for grants to support businesses affected by covid.
Linda Taylor has confirmed that the authority is withholding covid grants for hosting companies to ensure they go to ‘genuine businesses’.
Cornwall Council received money from the government to distribute two different grants – discretionary grants and those for businesses in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors.
The money was made available to help companies that have been particularly affected by the omicron variant of Covid-19.
Read more: Council accused of ‘dragging behind’ on covid payments for businesses
However, council leader Linda Taylor today said while the council dealt with the discretionary grant scheme it was restricting those for the accommodation sector pending advice from Westminster.
She said it was because the council wanted to avoid giving covid grants to second homeowners who registered their properties as businesses to avoid paying council tax and business rates and are not used as real vacation rentals.
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There has been criticism of the government‘s previous covid grant schemes which failed to allow councils to set strict rules on who could apply and millions of pounds provided to Cornwall went to holiday rental owners, many of whom do not not live in Cornwall.
Cllr Taylor told plenary this morning: “We have now agreed the criteria that will be applied to discretionary grants. The amount available here is not large.
“Besides the discretionary grants, there are hospitality, recreation and accommodation grants with which there does not appear to be any discretion. The Cabinet has no desire to pay those who have registered their homes for tariffs professionals in what could be called a roundabout way.
The leader of the Conservative council said legal advice had advised the guidelines for the grants “are very clear” and do not allow the council to differentiate between properties “which may or may not be genuine businesses”.
She said this was confirmed by the lawyers who advised ‘if the Firm followed the course it proposed and did not seek to pay those apparently unworthy, such action would be illegal’.
And she added that the Cabinet would be personally responsible for any lawsuits against the council that might arise from such a decision.
Cllr Taylor said the Cabinet had asked the six Cornwall MPs to help get more clarity and advice from the government on the matter and said she hoped for a further update later this week.
She added: “In the meantime, we have asked agents to begin the process of writing to businesses in the leisure and hospitality sectors, but not to write to those in the accommodation sector until updated guidelines are received.”
The Tory administration came under fire this week from independent adviser Tim Dwelly, who claimed it was “dragging its heels” in pouring money into businesses.
Later at the council meeting, former council leader Julian German said the tight constraints on grants had led to demands for money by those who might not have needed it. He said it underscored why Conservative advisers were wrong to criticize the previous administration for handing out the money when they were just following government rules.
Cllr Taylor said she hoped any second home owner who might be considering applying for covid grants would consider whether it would be morally right to do so.
She said it was important the money goes to businesses in Cornwall who need it and who have suffered due to covid.
And she said she didn’t believe all vacation home owners should be able to claim the grants saying that ‘in my opinion they have had one of the biggest bumper years since the term homes existed. vacation”.
The council leader added that she hoped her comments would be heard from afar and that: ‘These people who may be considering claiming second homes are absolutely going back to their moral fiber and thinking ‘I shouldn’t apply for this, I need to make sure the money goes to companies that have absolutely suffered”.
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