31st Oct, 2020

Droitwich dentist hits out over lack of Covid-19 financial support for his business

A DENTIST in Droitwich has hit out at Wychavon District Council, saying he has been left without any financial help during the Covid-19 crisis.

And Richard Sheen, who owns Old Market Court Dental Practice, claimed he was the only business in the High Street and Old Market Court not to have received funding.

Mr Sheen applied for help but was told the rateable value (RV) of his practice was too high.

His premises is valued at £18,250 and the cut off is £15,000.

Mr Sheen disputes the RV of his property, saying it is too high.

He is currently going through the appeal process but that may not be completed for 12 months.

After qualifying in Birmingham in 1989 he worked as an associated dentist in Droitwich in 1993.

Then in 1998 he opened an NHS dental practice on the High Street.

In 2006 Mr Sheen changed his surgery to a private one because, he said, the Labour Government changed the way NHS dentists were paid.

He undertook a master’s and now specialises in endodontics, seeing only private patients and referrals from other dentists.

In 2007 he bought the building next door to his in Old Market Court and extended his practice across the two buildings.

It was then the council deemed his business to have an RV of more than £18k.

He has had to use his savings to prop up the business.

He said: “I have practised in Droitwich for 27 years, I have one of the oldest businesses in the High Street – 22 years.

“When I started the practice half of the properties in the High Street were empty.

“In my opinion I have drawn business into the High Street and increased foot fall over the years.”

He added he had sent off a Freedom of Information request which shows he was the only business in Droitwich not to receive help, claiming some pubs and restaurants have had between £20,000 and £50,000.

He said: “I was forced to close for three months at a loss of approximately 60k turnover, while overheads remained the same.

“Apart from the furlough of one member of staff, I received no help from the Government.”

He even applied for a council discretionary grant, specifically for businesses who had not had any Covid-19 funding previously but his application was refused.

“I received an email from a dentist from up north whose practice had a rateable value of £30k and he received a £10k discretionary grant.

“The risk of catching Covid as a practising dentist is high. I am specialising in a field of dentistry that deals in pain relief, I am therefore rather upset that Wychavon district council or the Government does not seem to recognise the efforts I have made to help the local economy and population.”

Phil Merrick, Wychavon District Council’s director of economy and environment, said: “We sympathise with Mr Sheen and he is far from being the only business to miss out on financial support from the Government.

“The Government gave us strict criteria to determine eligibility for the grant scheme.

“Any business in receipt of small business rates relief through having a rateable value of up to £15,000 on their premises, was eligible for a £10,000 grant.

“Any business in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector, with a rateable value above £15,000 and up to £50,999, was eligible for a grant of £25,000.

“Unfortunately, Mr Sheen’s rateable value exceeds £15,000, ruling him out of the first scheme, and the Government made it clear that dentists cannot be considered as ‘retail, hospitality or leisure’. He was therefore also ineligible for that grant too.

“We were given £1.5million of additional discretionary funding to help support some of those businesses that missed out on the original schemes.

“We were given guidance by the Government to prioritise this money to support charities, business in shared spaces, B&Bs paying council tax and market traders with fixed building costs.

“We also chose to support retail, hospitality and leisure businesses that just missed out on the main grant funding as those areas of the economy have been hardest hit.

“The Chancellor made clear he would be unable to support every job and every business and similarly, we did not have enough discretionary funding available to help everyone.

“While I have every sympathy with those who have missed out, we shouldn’t forget we have paid out £31million to more than 2,700 businesses in a short space of time.

“It’s been an incredible effort by our staff, who have worked tirelessly, and one I know many businesses are thankful for.”

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