A BUSINESSMAN whose firm’s profits have been cut by £1m due to the closure of the entertainment industry has blasted the amount of support offered by Barnsley Council throughout the pandemic.
David Hirst, 55, of Birdwell, is a 30-year veteran in the sector and set up the Ocean Leisure Entertainment Agency back in 2006 - a firm that was successful supplying self-employed acts to an array of venues.
At the start of the pandemic, while David was still based at the town centre’s Digital Media Centre on County Way, the firm received a £10,000 handout to help keep them afloat but since then just a £500 hardship grant has been awarded to the agency - which doesn’t even cover monthly outgoings.
He told the Chronicle: “We were down to no income from March 20 of last year and had a loss of over £1m in sales.
“I have had to let all my staff go and it could be another six months before we restart trying to build the business back up.”
David moved out of the DMC earlier this year after seven years in the building because he didn’t receive a rent holiday from the council - an act which has seen him move his business back into his home in Birdwell.
“I now work from home which doesn’t seem to count as running a business, so now we’re even being punished for working from home,” he added.
“Through no fault of my own this has happened and we’re not getting the support we need - it’s a joke.
“I’ve filled in form after form to try and get the grants and I just got £500 - I’ve built this business up from nothing and it’s coming down with no help.”
David has hit out against Barnsley Council and Dan Jarvis - Barnsley Central’s MP - as he feels they ‘don’t support self-employed businesses like they claim’.
“Colleagues in the same business as me in other districts across the country are all receiving grants, so I want to ask why this isn’t happening here.”
The MP, who is also Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said he understands that local businesses are ‘feeling the pinch’ and that he is working ‘around the clock’ to ensure they survive the pandemic.
He told the Chronicle: “I know how tough it is for our local businesses and the hardship they are facing due to Covid restrictions.
“That’s why local leaders and I have taken action to make sure every pound of support funding goes as far as possible.
“The government has provided grants for businesses forced to close and who pay business rates, but this has left many falling through the cracks.
“While we do not have the resources to be able to help every business facing hardship, we have increased the local support available for those hardest hit. Local businesses that are feeling the pinch should get in touch with Enterprising Barnsley and the SCR Growth Hub.
“I’m working around the clock to help our businesses survive the winter, so they play their part in our region’s economic recovery and renewal.”
Coun Tim Cheetham, cabinet spokesperson for regeneration and culture, added: “We understand that these are testing times for businesses and we appreciate that they have put in a lot of hard work just to stay afloat.
“Barnsley Council has helped over 5,000 businesses with over £47m worth of grants. “Our finance service has worked hard to get support out to businesses as early as possible to help.
“While in properties with a rateable value, eligible customers will have received the £10,000 business rates grant to support their overheads.
“Additional support during recent restrictions is based on having business property-based overheads, so if a company no longer has these, the available support from grants such as the local business hardship grant will limit what support is available through the council.
“This is based on guidance from central government and from agreements from the Sheffield City Region.”