MILLIONS of pounds has been awarded to businesses across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to help support them through the coronavirus pandemic.

As of the end of Tuesday, BCP Council had given more than £11 million of the £128 million it received at the end of last month from the government.

Council leader Vikki Slade said a “large number” of applications had already been made with more than 500 payments already being made.

Originally announced in last month’s budget, the small business grants fund saw £3.4 billion distributed to local authorities.

It is aimed at supporting smaller companies which are struggling financially as a result of measures aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus and can see either £10,000 or £25,000 given out.

The share awarded to BCP Council was £128 million and this was received on March 27. The first grants were awarded within a week.

More than 7,000 eligible businesses have been approached, inviting them to apply.

“We’ve moved quickly to contact eligible businesses by post, to advise of their rate relief and providing grant forms to 7,200 premises that on our records meet the criteria,” Cllr Slade said.

“From receipt of the forms we aim to make payment of validated claims to businesses within 7 working days.

“We have already received a large number of online applications and processed the first payments.”

She said the first businesses were given grants last Friday (April 3).

And as of Tuesday, 776 payments had been made, totalling just over £11.4 million.

Earlier this week, the local government secretary, Robert Jenrick, highlighted on Twitter the councils that had responded quickly in awarding grants.

Cornwall Council had paid out by far the most with £135.7 million given to businesses in its area – the second highest was Durham County Council with a total just over £50 million.

Dorset Council had paid out £3.3 million to more than 300 businesses as of Tuesday.

Businesses in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole struggling to meet their business rates liabilities are also being asked to contact BCP Council.

Letters have been sent to those which fit the criteria for relief.

The council said "huge demand" had resulted in it putting more resources into its work and it said claims would be reviewed over the bank holiday weekend.