Cottesmore Hunt in Rutland defends decision to apply for £25,000 Covid business grant
A hunt in Rutland has defended its decision to apply for a £25,000 Government grant aimed at helping small businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic.
Cottesmore Hunt successfully secured the handout and has also received a business rates discount of £6,716 through Rutland County Council.
Details on the handouts came to light following a request made under the Freedom of Information Act by anti-hunting group Keep the Ban.
It found that councils in England and Wales had handed out coronavirus support grants worth more than £160,000 to hunts.
Local authorities have no say in which groups should receive the money. Under government rules, any business that occupies a property and receives small business rate relief or rural rate relief is eligible for a small business grant for Covid-19.
Animal rights campaigners say taxpayers’ money should not be spent on funding hunts, but Clare Bell, secretary at Cottesmore Hunt, said the money was vital to help the organisation and its staff.
She stressed that the hunt paid full business rates to the county council and was “an important part of the community”.
“No fundraising could take place over the summer and so, like many other businesses, we took advantage of the Government's small business grant schemes,” she said.
“The funds have been used to help keep our staff employed, ensure that horses and hounds were properly cared for as well as to enable us to continue supporting local businesses that rely on our orders.”
She added: “The Cottesmore is an important part of the rural community, hunting within the law and following artificial trails that are laid by our members.”
However, Rob Pownall, founder of Keep the Ban, said: “Families across the country are suffering incredible hardship and having to make tough sacrifices due to Covid-19. Why are hard-working people now being made to subsidise hunts to the tune of £160,000?
“Taxpayers’ money should be going to help local people. It is shocking that money supposed to help struggling businesses survive is being handed to hunts to support their activities.”
A spokesman for Rutland County Council said its role in administering the grant funding was “purely administrative”.
He added: “The Cottesmore Hunt is one of a number of organisations in Rutland that was awarded Covid-19 grant funding by the Government, with the intention of supporting property costs.
“The eligibility criteria for awarding retail, hospitality and leisure grants were set by the Government and Rutland County Council was obliged to provide grants to any company or organisation that met that criteria.”