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210112 | Holiday home owner tried to get £10,000 Covid-19 grant had no right to; Ombudsman said Cornwall Council not at fault

Holiday home owner tried to get Covid-19 grant he had no right to

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said that Cornwall Council was not at fault in refusing a holiday home owner's claim for a £10,000 Covid-19 business grant

St Ives is home to many second homes and holiday lets (Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

A holiday home owner who complained that Cornwall Council refused to pay him a £10,000 Covid-19 grant has had his complaint rejected.

The owner went to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) after his application for a business support grant was refused by Cornwall Council.

He claimed that not receiving the £10,000 grant compounded his business' problems from being unable to have holiday lettings due to Covid-19.

However the ombudsman said that it would not investigate the complaint as there was insufficient evidence that the council was at fault.

No details are provided by the LGSCO about the identity of the owner or the location of their business.

In March 2020 the Government created grants schemes to help small businesses including those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. These were introduced to help those affected by the Covid-19 restrictions during lockdown and were administered by local authorities.

In order to qualify for a grant the business had to be on the business rating list on March 11, 2020.

The report from the LGSCO states that Mr X's holiday home was on the council tax list and not the business rating list - as a normal home and not registered as a business - on March 11, 2020, therefore it was not eligible for a grant.

Mr X first asked for his property to be on the business rating list instead of the council tax list in April 2020. This was done and the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) backdated it by "some years".

The LGSCO says that as the business was not on the rating list on March 11, 2020, the council could not award a grant and its decision to refuse Mr X's application was in line with government guidance.

They state: "I appreciate Mr X's situation is difficult and he is unhappy with the council's position. However, the council acted in line with the Government's guidance, as it must do."

After publishing its draft decision the LGSCO allowed Mr X to respond and he claimed that the VOA's backdating of his property's entry on the rating list meant it had been on the list for "many years" before the grants scheme was introduced.

The ombudsman states: "For the purposes of grant eligibility, that is not the case. It is a matter of fact that the business was not on the rating list on 11 March 2020 and was added after that date, the the change backdated."

Mr X also argued that the council should not have based its decision just on the Government's written guidance and should have considered other government announcements and comments in the House of Commons.

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The ombudsman stated that the council was not at fault in following the guidance provided to councils.

They added: "Nor do I consider the council was at fault for not also basing its decisions on speeches and statements rather than the Government’s guidance for councils. Mr X is arguing the council should have based its decisions on a menu of factors. Doing so would have risked introducing confusion and inconsistency. I do not consider it was fault for the council to take the Government’s written guidance for councils as setting out the Government’s expectations for how councils should administer grants."

The final decision of the LGSCO states: "The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the council."

It is not the first complaint made to the LGSCO by a holiday home owner disgruntled after having a grant application rejected by Cornwall Council.

Another holiday home owner claimed that she should have also received a grant after adding her business to the rating list after the scheme started.