A FORDINGBRIDGE pub owner feels the business has “fallen through the cracks” after being told it is not eligible for Covid-19 support grants.

Caroline Roylance, who runs The George, says she was told by New Forest District Council it was not eligible because its rateable value was above £51k. She was also told the rates are set by the valuation office and the pub would have to apply to have it reduced. However on doing this Caroline was told it was not doing any valuations due to Covid-19.

“I understand we are on the river but when you aren’t open it doesn’t really count what your rateable value is - we can’t make any money,” said Caroline, who had hoped the government would roll out further grants that the pub would be entitled to. However, this has not happened - leaving the pub in a “difficult position”.

She applied for the discretionary support grant from the local authority but again was told the pub was not eligible.

“The government said it was discretionary. We are a small business. All the other pubs and small businesses around us have had a grant. We haven’t had anything,” said Caroline, adding: “It is not just us."

A Facebook group has been set called Forgotten Ltd with other businesses in the same situation as The George.

“It’s people like us, small business owners, limited company owners with small amounts of staff that have just slipped through the cracks.

“It’s terrible. This is through no fault of our own. We do all that we can to make our business viable," she added.

“We’ve fallen into the cracks,” said Caroline. “We just want the same help that everyone else has had.”

Caroline added: “We are really happy the government has given hospitality the green-light but we have to wait until we see their guidelines before we can see how it is going to affect our business.

"We’re waiting until the July 8 to open because we need to keep our staff as safe as possible. We are now facing the prospect of preparing to open with no money to buy equipment because we’ve had no funding.”

An NFDC spokesperson said: “We appreciate that there are many businesses in need of support as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have awarded a retail discount to eligible businesses affected, including The George pub, that means they will pay no business rates for 2020/2021. We have distributed central government funding schemes according to the guidance set by government.”

They added: “The council can only award a Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Support Grant to businesses with a rateable value of under £51,000, as determined by the Valuation Office, and the council has no discretion on this.

"The government also state that the limited Discretionary Fund grant scheme is aimed at small and micro businesses with a rateable value or annual rent of less than £51,000 and who weren’t eligible for previous grants.

“Our scheme follows government guidance and unfortunately The George does not meet the criteria of the scheme. Once we have distributed all payments from the current discretionary scheme, we will be reviewing any remaining funding to see where it can be of most benefit to New Forest businesses.”