JUST 165 businesses in Southampton are still waiting for government grants to help them through the coronavirus crisis.

Southampton City Council has paid grants to 94 per cent of businesses earmarked for grants, higher than the national average of 86 per cent.

A total of 2,761 businesses qualify for help in the city.

In March, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 for small and medium-sized businesses to support them during the crisis.

The cash is provided for a business property so firms with multiple outlets can receive more than one payment.

Latest figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy cover the period to the end of May.

Firms in the area have received £34.1 million so far, from an allocated pot of £40.7 million.

Councils across England had paid out grants worth £10.1 billion to 820,000 business properties by the end of May – 82 per cent of the money made available.

Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said many councils are doing their best to distribute the grants announced in March.

"However, it is disappointing to see that some councils are still lagging behind the rest, which means that there are thousands of small businesses that are still waiting for this urgent support," he added.

"It is the responsibility of councils and local authorities to distribute these funds as quickly as possible to help struggling small firms through this pandemic.

"I would urge any councils that still have sizeable chunks of their funding to distribute to do so sooner rather than later.

"Equally, we need to see authorities moving as quickly as possible to allocate additional, discretionary funding to those most in need."

Richard Watts, chairman of the Local Government Association’s resources board, said: “Government grants are a vital lifeline to businesses struggling at this time and worried about the future.

“Councils have worked hard to distribute more than £10 billion of this vital funding to small businesses. This has been a huge undertaking.”

The government support takes two forms. The Small Business Grants Fund is worth £10,000 and available to those who ordinarily also qualify for relief on their business rates due to their small size.

The Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund is open to those which would have qualified for a 100 per cent reduction in business rates under the previously announced Expanded Retail Discount scheme as of March 11.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said local authorities have been working flat out to ensure funds get to hard-pressed small business owners.