Stories about the eye-watering amounts of fraud involved in the issuing of public money during the Covid crisis, continue to dominate news headlines. The weekend’s papers were once again full of examples. Much is rightly being made about the scale of fraud that’s been identified during these unprecedented times.
Treasury Minister, Lord Agnew, who had served in post since February 2020, drove home the point in the House of Commons - before promptly resigning. Little wonder he felt compelled to stand down. The sums of money involved here are staggering.
More than £47 billion was given to small businesses under the government's largest coronavirus scheme - the bounce back loan scheme (BBLS) – aimed at helping those companies most at risk during the pandemic. The National Audit Office has since estimated that as much as £5 billion of this support money could have been claimed fraudulently … and it’s been written-off.
I will be the first to admit that these scammers are a sophisticated lot, and all systems are susceptible to their clever schemes, even here at Mendip. But this all comes on the back of the questionable procurement process for PPE and a £37 billion investment in a test-and-trace system that failed to prevent further national lockdowns! All very troubling as we all look forward to decades of paying-off government debt.
With such a fiscal fiasco being demonstrated nationally, it’s understandable that resident’s ask me how Mendip fared in the pandemic pay-out.
Yes, we too issued grants to local businesses and organisations – and indeed we continue to do so. I am proud to say that in total to date, some £58m large and small grants have been paid to thousands of Mendip organisations. It’s been a monumental effort, trying to get money to the right people, quickly and efficiently. And to do so against the fevered backdrop of livelihoods and people’s futures, literally at stake. Multiple funds, complex eligibility criteria, lengthy delays between government announcements, have all added to the challenge.
Our grant-awarding process is subject to scrutiny via an external audit, to identify potential fraud and maladministration. Other Covid expenditure has also been subject to external review. This was necessary so that we could claim back 75% government contributions. (The 25% shortfall has had to come from all our local council taxes). To date, we’ve had assurance that we’ve stuck to the rules. That’s down to the meticulous work and considered decision-making of our council officers. I thank them for their dedication and diligence.
Mendip has worked hard to ensure we have bought our expenditure within our budget. Our political opponents are quick to question the financial competency of the Council, but the facts (and figures) speak for themselves. We have been transparent, prudent, and innovative. We’ve produced a best-value budget, and have been careful with each and every penny spent.
We are currently still administering the Omicron Hospitality and Leisure 2022 Grant. If you need support, visit the council website here:
If you have any questions for me, then please do get in touch by email: [email protected] or via Facebook: @RosWyke.
Written by Cllr Ros Wyke, Leader of Mendip District Council
Please get in touch either on my Facebook page @Ros.Wyke or you can send me an email: [email protected].