The lunatics are running the asylum in Cardiff as far as Welsh arcade operator Alex Carpanini is concerned, after one local council cited guidance from the devolved government in its request that he pay them £25,000 back in Covid-19 relief funding. This was certainly not in the Treasury’s spirit of doing “whatever it takes” to protect businesses during the crisis.
Welsh arcade operator Alex Carpanini has called for “consistency” from the devolved government in Cardiff, after Bridgend council asked him to pay back a £25,000 grant awarded to his business in April.
Carpanini applied for and received the funds just weeks into the nationwide lockdown, with 40 staff being forced onto furloughed wages. But on June 9, he was shocked to receive an email from the borough council claiming that the money had been sent to him “in error,” and that “businesses such as yours do not meet the criteria [for grants] set by the Welsh government.”
“Please can you arrange for the sum of £25,000 to be paid back to your business rates account by return,” the email added. The fact that the Welsh government had decreed his business unfit for grant money was news to Carpanini – who operates nine AGCs throughout Wales, and has denounced as “crazy” the widely differing attitudes towards relief funding taken by individual councils. By way of example, Carpanini claims that his operation received grants from three out of seven relevant regional authorities, with three others either rejecting his applications or ignoring them completely. Yet another local council meanwhile took the bizarre stance of providing grant relief for one of his arcades but not another.
“Just be consistent,” he told the BBC this weekend in relation to the mixed messaging from Cardiff. “Have clarity across Wales, instead of a postcode lottery depending on which local authority you’re under.”
And it’s exactly this message that trade association Bacta has been attempting to drive home to the Welsh government: pressing ministers to remind local councils that Welsh arcades are perfectly eligible for Covid-19 grant relief, as they are in the rest of the UK.
Indeed, regional Bacta chairman Richard Case has said Carpanini’s case illustrated how Welsh AGC owners were being treated “completely unfairly.”
“Having been told by government to shut we should be receiving support,” he said.
Meanwhile, the actions of Bridgend council with respect to its request for repayment that the Federation of Small Businesses has weighed in on the issue, with the organisation’s Ben Cottam claiming that the way Carpanini had been treated was “very concerning.”
“I think also this will cause concern for other businesses that funding could be clawed back in their case,” he added.