A NEW town hall report has laid bare the £104m impact the pandemic had on Bolton businesses.

No fewer than seven grant schemes have been rolled out by town hall staff during the various lockdowns.

The Bolton News revealed last month extra assistance was also being offered to the hard-hit travel sector, with 22 firms sharing £133,000 in aid.

Controversy has surrounded the parameters for the government-backed grant programmes at various times, with everyone from taxi drivers to market stallholders, health and beauty services and pubs all expressing frustration over the criteria required for help.

Phil Rimmer, the borough council's assistant director of revenues, benefits and customer services, has reported back to councillors on the main strands of the authority's involvement in Covid grants.

One early hold-up was confusion over eligibility for small business rate relief, he told councillors.

"This led to a situation where, in addition to receiving thousands of applications for a grant that had been quickly introduced, we also had hundreds of businesses needing to go through the registration process for business rates and claim relief before a grant could be paid," said Mr Rimmer.

The initial April 2020 grants round saw just over £59m paid out for 5,267 cases, for small business and retail, hospitality and leisure grants. A discretionary fund, for those without business rate accounts, paid out £2.95m in 373 cases.

Bolton was the first town to trial a local revenue support grant, with its rising number of Covid cases, which then saw £684,000 delivered for 656 applications.

Another lockdown in November heralded a fresh round of grants, for around £8m in 6,148 cases. Christmas support payments for pubs totalled £121,000.

Further grants schemes for January to March saw £19.6m given for 6,320 claims and another additional restrictions grant round resulted in payouts totalling £9.5m for 2,500 cases.

And finally restart grants worth £13.14m, across a range of sectors, were paid in 1,928 cases.

Mr Rimmer says the latter scheme attracted 30 fraudulent claims by people not connected with a business.