THE Barrow and Furness Constituency Labour Party has defended their application for a £10,000 grant after being labelled as a ‘disgrace’ by a leading member of the Conservative party.

According to financial transparency reports issued by Barrow Borough Council, the local Labour Party applied and received a £10,000 Business Support Grant, which was implemented by the Government to aid businesses who were struggling during the lockdown.

Barrow Borough Council confirmed that they were eligible for the grant due to running an office in Hartington Street.

Cllr Andrew Butcher, the chairman of the local Conservative party, said: “I was shocked to learn that a political party would claim the grant, which was intended for local businesses and charities who had fallen upon genuine financial hardship during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a disgrace. This money is for struggling businesses and charities.

“Our own party were offered the grant and we unanimously agreed against applying for it. Our view is it would be morally bankrupt to accept this grant as a political party.”

Cllr Butcher went on to say: “This is made worse by the fact that the Labour led council failed to award all of its allocation.

“To send nearly £5 million back to the Government is shocking. There are many businesses based in the borough of Barrow in Furness who would have benefited from the grant, who haven’t received it.

“And yet, the council’s own ruling party have wilfully taken £10,000 which will be spent on party political leaflets and propaganda, while knowing that so many local traders are struggling.”

Cllr Butcher called on the local Labour party to 'do the right thing' and donate the money to a 'more worthy cause'.

The Mail: LOCATION: Barrow Labour Party office on Hartington StreetLOCATION: Barrow Labour Party office on Hartington Street

In response, Barrow and Furness Constituency Labour Party issued the following statement: “The grant was available for all organisations liable for business rates.

“This was in acknowledgement that they all faced challenges both on their income and the ability to use and maintain their premises.

“Like many local organisations, the local Labour Party has been unable to do its normal fundraising because of Covid-19.

“Had we not accepted the money it would have been given back to London.

“The council made every effort to chase up every organisation in the borough that was eligible for a grant.

“The Labour Party will not, of course, be using the money for propaganda, as Cllr Butcher incorrectly states.”

Eligibility criteria for this fund was set by the government. To apply, businesses, organisations or charities had to be in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief prior to March 2020.

A Barrow Borough Council spokesman said: "Businesses, organisations and charities with fixed premises and in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief were eligible for the Small Business Grant Fund introduced across the country in March.

"The eligibility criteria for this fund was set by the government. All those who applied and met the criteria in the borough before the deadline received the grant in line with the requirements of the scheme."

There is no record in the financial transparency pages of either the Conservative Party office in Dalton or Simon Fell's office claiming this grant.

When asked if this is something that was considered, Mr Fell's office gave this statement: "This is something which we were made aware that we were eligible to apply for.

"At no point, however, did we consider applying for this grant. We didn’t apply for it, nor do we have any intention of doing so.

"Furthermore, it is not something which this office would consider applying for at any point in the future."