John at High Street Chippy in Wath before the pandemic

MP John Healey is calling for Barnsley and Rotherham councils to be allowed to keep almost £7m to help local businesses recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Councils were given pots of funding to back businesses through three grant schemes, with eligibility criteria laid down by Ministers. But the Government wants councils to send back what they haven’t spent – £5.2m in Rotherham and £1.6m in Barnsley.

The councils have told the MP that they back the idea from Labour that the money should go into a ‘hospitality and high streets fightback fund’ which would mean they keep the money and use it flexibly to help businesses who have missed out on support because of rigid rules. The proposal also has the backing of Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce.

John Healey has launched a petition for residents to sign and say that they back the idea of letting Barnsley and Rotherham keep this money to help further support local businesses. You can support John’s calls and sign the petition below.

John said: “Our local shops and restaurants are still under huge pressure. Now is the time for the Government to let us help them, not take the money back to London.

“Local communities should be allowed to keep this funding and use it flexibly to support our high streets and save jobs.

“This would free up a significant amount of money that could be targeted where we know it’s still desperately needed.”

John has written to the Secretary of State for Local Government – Robert Jenrick MP – to make the case for this Fightback Fund for Hospitality and High Streets.

Rotherham was allocated £52m and Barnsley £47m for the business support schemes. The councils have each paid grants to around 4,000 businesses, but it is thought the extra money could help another 1,000 businesses across the two towns.

Many businesses are trading well below capacity while still facing high fixed costs. Footfall for retail and recreation businesses is down 40 per cent in South Yorkshire compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to Google mobility data. Tight cash flow is also being squeezed further because businesses now have to contribute to the furlough scheme.