Harrow Council is unlikely to use all its Covid-19 business support funding, which could see around £3 million handed back to the Government.

Its finance director Dawn Calvert explained that “any residual funding” from its initial allocation will need to be paid back at the end of August.

Harrow was given around £42.2 million to help small and medium businesses in the borough manage the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Government data, as of July 19, it has spent just under £38.3 million on business grants.

Ms Calvert told a council finance and performance scrutiny committee meeting on Monday (July 27) that this figure has since surpassed £38.5 million but is unlikely to top £39 million by the end of next month.

This means around £3 million will be left unused, though Cllr Adam Swersky, who is responsible for finance and emergency response at Harrow Council, suggested this was a result of an overestimation by the Government.

He explained several properties that appear on the national system are actually things like parking systems and ATMs, which would not be eligible for support.

And the Government statistics show that every business identified by the council as eligible to benefit from this scheme – 2,606 companies – have been dealt with.

Cllr Swersky explained that applications are still open for a short while longer and, while “very few” are coming through, they will be managed accordingly.

The Covid-19 business grants have been a political hot topic in Harrow after the council was among the ‘worst performing’ in England in terms of speed of processing payments.

Harrow Conservatives criticised the Labour-run administration, suggesting it was more concerned with “calling for more Government funding” as opposed to being “focused on getting money to local businesses that desperately need it”.

Cllr Swersky explained that the council had to carry out a series of checks to avoid fraud and ensure the correct people were paid.

He added Harrow has more small businesses and microbusinesses that many other parts of the country, which meant it took longer to verify details.

And he likened the council’s performance to ‘the tortoise and the hare’, noting it “struggled in the beginning” but ended up in the “top tier” of local authorities.