CHARTERED accountants Kidsons Impey are warning that small businesses should be on guard against grant consultancies which ask for a fee in advance or guarantee funding. The firm says a number are under investigation by the DTI and Trading Standards departments. John Parry, a partner at the Kidsons Impey Manchester office, said: "There is no guarantee that a company will be eligible for a grant and businesses should not agree to part with money in advance for this service."

He went on: "As professional advisors, we offer our clients a grant advisory service and there are instances where a search reveals that there are no suitable grants available for a company."

Hairdresser Jonathan Wilson fell for the patter when a grants salesman called on him in Tyldesley Road, Atherton.

He paid £350 up front and expected to be helped towards grants for his business.

But apart from hearing that he is in the company's database he has not had any hard information at all since signing-up in May.

He has written requesting his money back - without success.

Mr Wilson said today: "I would say that I am not normally a gullible person and I do feel rather foolish, but their representatives are very convincing."

He warns businesses not to be taken in, as he was.

Earlier this year there was a warning about bogus grant consultants from Steve Burns, Bolton Council's head of Economic and Physical Development.

He said most of the information offered was already available to local businesses through the council and bodies such as Bolton and Bury Chamber of Commerce, Bolton Business Ventures and Bolton Bury Training and Enterprise Council.

But the point was subsequently made by a bona fide Bolton firm that it is extremely detrimental to portray all grant consultants as unethical.

Professional, expert advice was genuinely available, it was pointed out.

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