A director of a small business that has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic says she has struggled to get financial support and information from Barnet Council.

Sonia Hawkins, director at Powerhouse Hire in New Barnet, says her business is being put at a “disadvantage” because it has not been able to access Government funding that is supposed to be distributed by the council.

The firm, which is based on Hazel Green Works industrial estate in New Barnet, does not pay rates directly to the council, meaning it was not initially eligible for Government grant schemes set up to respond to the crisis.

On May 1, the Government asked councils to set up “discretionary” support funds and prioritise small businesses – which could include those in shared spaces and industrial parks – for grants.

Despite this, Ms Hawkins said she had not yet received assistance – and had struggled to even speak to someone from the council.

“It will put us at a disadvantage to other companies. We’ve not got a huge amount of staff, and everyone is on furlough,” she said.

“I feel strongly, when we have been around for 40-odd years, it would be a real shame if this were to finish us off.”

Ms Hawkins said she had sent a message to the council in March and was told events and leisure business Powerhouse Hire did not qualify for grant funding.

After finding out about the discretionary funding, she emailed the council but – apart from an automated response – did not receive a reply or telephone call. Further emails went unanswered.

Ms Hawkins said she was able to contact the council using Facebook Messenger, but they sent her a form asking for the reference number on the company’s rates bill – which she obviously did not have.

“We can’t be the only ones affected by this,” she said. “I can’t even find out what sort of amount we would be entitled to or anything.”

Ms Hawkins said their landlord had not asked for rent during April or May, but she was worried about being able to pay the bills in future.

“The bills do not stop just because you shut your door,” she explained. “We’ve just had an electricity bill covering the main winter period, which we can’t pay at the moment. Water rates we can’t pay at the moment, because we don’t have the funds.”

A Barnet Council spokesperson said: “Protecting and supporting Barnet’s businesses is a priority for the council. We can’t comment on specific cases, but we are processing every claim and liaising first with eligible business owners to ensure that payments are made as quickly as possible.

“Not all businesses are eligible for these grants and we are carefully working within the rules of the grant scheme to ensure money is allocated correctly. We appreciate the frustration this causes and are endeavouring to resolve all outstanding claims as soon as possible. To date, we have paid out grants totalling more than £48 million to 2,900 of Barnet’s businesses.

“More support for Barnet’s businesses will soon be made available through the council establishing a new Local Discretionary Grant Fund. This is a fast-changing situation, so we ask businesses to check our website regularly for more details on when applications will be open for grants.”