The leader of North Devon Council (NDC) has apologised for delays in getting support grants out to businesses affected by the coronavirus crisis.

The council has paid out £17million in government grants to 1,500 businesses in the last week after working through the weekend, and admitted some have taken longer to resolve due to ‘complex issues’.

The Government has set aside nearly £51million to support 3,782 businesses in the district. However, only half of the eligible businesses have applied as things stand.

Hundreds of businesses have had problems filling in the online form to apply for grants, and the council has appealed to those applying to only contact them once if there are any problems.

Council leader, Councillor David Worden, said: “We want to thank the local North Devon business community for being so polite, patient and understanding whilst we administer these grants.

“We also want to thank our hardworking staff who have given their absolute all to getting these payments out with much reduced staffing levels, as the virus has taken its toll on our resources.

“We’re deeply sorry that some people have had to wait longer than others but there are some complex issues to resolve and rest assured, they will get to you as quickly as they can.”

An update from NDC said some issues were taking longer to resolve and in some cases it was having to refer problems back to the government for clarification.

They include:

– People providing incorrect evidence

– Whether there’s an element of personal use of the business (such as stables)

– People who think they qualify but actually don’t

– People who are eligible for small business rate relief but hadn’t applied before the grant system was announced

– People who hadn’t registered to pay business rates on new businesses before the grant system was announced

– The listed ratepayer is incorrect.

Businesses yet to apply can do so through the North Devon Council website, and those experiencing issues with the online form can contact the council’s customer services at businessrates@northdevon.gov.uk