Last minute flurry sees Havering Council pay out £130k more in Omicron grants than initially allocated 

South Street in Romford

Government data shows that Havering Council paid hospitality businesses £1,061,375 to support them through Omicron, significantly more than the £930,033 it was initially allocated by government - Credit: Ken Mears

Havering Council paid hospitality businesses over £130,000 more in grants than it was initially allocated, according to government data. 

As part of the government’s Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant Scheme, launched in December 2021, Havering Council was given a pot of £930,033 to support the local hospitality industry.  

By the scheme’s end, on March 31, the council had paid the grant to 287 businesses, totalling £1,061,375 - significantly more than its original allocation. 

A Havering spokesperson said: “The Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant was introduced by the government to provide more support to businesses still struggling financially during the rise of the variant in December.  

“A portion of this grant was paid to the council directly, with the potential for further funds to be paid if the council received more applications than estimated.” 

Havering Council headquarters in Romford

Havering Council said it was able to tap into further funds from government due to receiving more applications than initially estimated - Credit: Archant

The total indicates a final flurry by the council, as data analysed by the real estate adviser Altus Group found the council had paid just £581,356 of its pot (62.51 per cent) on March 18 with two weeks to go before the scheme ended. 

Robert Hayton, UK President of Altus Group, described it as a “post code lottery”, adding: “These types of businesses saw one of their most valuable trading periods wiped out and simply didn’t get the support they needed quickly enough.  

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“I just hope councils rallied at the end.” 

Issues with the distribution of Covid grants was previously raised by then Hornchurch-based Wesley Mendy, whose company organises large events

Wesley’s company, Prestige Events, had issues accessing money allocated to the council to support the hospitality trade, leading to him suffering “sleepless nights and causing my physical health to deteriorate”. 

He did not apply for the Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant Scheme, although said throughout his dealings with the council he was consistently “messed around”. 

Wesley Mendy Prestige Events

Events organiser Wesley Mendy was told his business, Prestige Events, was not eligible for support because its office was still accessible - even though there was no work for staff to do if they went there. - Credit: www.martin-james.co.uk

Wesley has since moved both himself and Prestige Events out of Havering and down to Hastings. 

“I was fed up with the borough,” he said, adding: “We were just being taken for a ride.” 

The Havering Council spokesperson said: “Havering Council has supported local businesses throughout the pandemic, whether through processing government grants, hosting regular business Q&A sessions, or providing a live business support service."