Business grants to help new shops open in Westhoughton have been scrapped by Labour chiefs at Bolton Council.
The start-up grants, worth up to £5,000 each, were designed to help encourage local people to launch new businesses in the town.
But the scheme has been beset with problems, with many prospective entrepreneurs completely unaware that it existed and others saying that the application process was too difficult.
I support Westhoughton’s town centre businesses – the council should too
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As a result, not a single grant was awarded to a Westhoughton business, while larger grants of £20,000 were handed out in Bolton town centre.
Westhoughton town councillor David Wilkinson said: “It is an absolute disgrace that the council has scrapped these grants.
“It is incredibly difficult to set up a business these days and some people are very ambitious to throw their lives and money into new start-ups.
“These grants could be invaluable to kick-starting our town centre but instead Bolton Council has taken an absolute hammerblow to Westhoughton’s local economy.”
Cllr Wilkinson had been campaigning to equalise the funding available with that of Bolton town centre, insisting that it was “unfair” to offer smaller grants to Westhoughton start-ups.
He added: “My campaign will now shift to getting these grants back up and running. Only the other day I met a woman who is very keen to set up a business in Westhoughton and this funding would be a lifeline to her.”
Council bosses have revealed that the grant scheme was quietly scrapped in February 2015.
A spokesman said: “The Destination Bolton Town Centre Business Support Scheme ended in November 2015. The Horwich grant scheme ended in March 2016 when all budget had been allocated. The Westhoughton grant scheme ended in February 2015.
“Bolton Council’s Director of Development and Regeneration ended the scheme as there had been no successful applications.”
Asked what support is now available for new businesses, they added: “Bolton Council work closely with other business support agencies in particular the Business Growth Hub. They provide support in a number of ways to new businesses, which include growth support through workshops and masterclasses and links to free council services such as property searches and help with recruitment.
“The Business Growth Hub will also work with colleagues in Access to Finance and Business Finance Solutions to identify the best finance solutions to help each business. e.g. start-up loans, growth loans, equity investment, export finance
“There is no longer grant funding available for start-up businesses across Bolton.”