BCP Council says it has begun handing out more than £4.3million in grants to small businesses hit by the coronavirus crisis.

The authority says more than 800 business applied for the latest government support scheme, the Local Discretionary Grant, between May 29 and June 15.

It said staff had been reviewing each case to ensure payments could be made as soon as possible.

Applicants should be contacted within the next two weeks with a decision.

The first payments were made last week. In some cases, further information may be requested before the money is paid.

The grants go to businesses which have demonstrated the impact of Covid-19 on their income, have ongoing fixed property-related costs and occupy shared property with rateable value or property costs under £51,000.

There has been a nationwide campaign for the government to raise the rateable value bar so that more businesses can claim, which has not met with success so far.

Grant levels locally – which have been based on number of applications, the priorities set by government and local needs – have been set at £1,000 for market traders, £2,500 for bed and breakfasts and £5,000, £7,500 or £10,000 for small and micro-business.

Charities’ grants are set at £10,000 and where businesses have high property costs, but still below the £51,000 level, discretion may be used to award a £25,000 grant.

Council leader Cllr Vikki Slade said: “Considering the number of applications we received, I am really pleased that we’ve been able to turn this round so quickly.

“It comes at a critical time for many small businesses who will be facing significant financial difficulties after months of pandemic-related disruption.

“I hope the grants will provide much needed aid, especially to those who will now looking to re-open in the coming weeks. As always we will continue to pursue and lobby for further support from government to help local businesses recover.’’

More information about support for local business is at bcpcouncil.gov.uk/covid19businesssupport