A DISGRUNTLED dog trainer who was turned down for a support grant accused council officials of advising him to break lockdown guidance after he was forced to put his business on hold.
Steve Tindall approached Rotherham Council for a helping hand after the country was put back in lockdown earlier this month but was knocked back.
He said the authority had told him he should run online classes instead — a suggestion he called “absurd” — and even that he might encourage dog owners to come to face-to-face classes, which he said would be in clear breach of the government rules on travelling outside the local area.
“In the first lockdown, I got the grant but in the second they said I can carry on working," said Mr Tindall, who runs Steve’s Dog Training and normally has up to 70 customers a week.
“As soon as we went into lockdown, I sent them an email saying am I going to get this grant and they said I could still work.
“My business cannot open because I do face to face training.
Anger as Royal Mail refuses to replace postbox damaged in car crash
Bus services reduced from this weekend as pandemic hits passenger numbers
Unpaid work punishment for car theft duo
Video: CCTV footage released after robber threatens bookies staff with knife
“RMBC are effectively saying I should say it’s ‘exercise’, but the police have said it goes against the law and they should not be saying this.
“The council are saying I could do virtual dog training but that is absurd.
“I’ve never done virtual classes before, as I want to be face to face, see the body language and so on.”
Mr Tindall said the council had not gone as far as telling him to organise face-to-face classes branded as “exercise” — one of the permitted exceptions to the Government’s “Stay at home” stance.
But he referred to an email in which a council officer said: “Should you choose to meet face to face and say it is exercise, you need to ensure you follow any Covid guidance, but our advice would be to look at any alternatives.”
Mr Tindall added: “They should not be advising me to do this. It would be exercising away from their local area and I would be encouraging them to travel.”
Mr Tindall, who rents land at Todwick to run his classes, said he had been given the council’s discretionary grant, which amounts to £500, but this would nowhere near cover his continuing overheads.
Dog training is currently excluded from the list of businesses currently eligible for government grants.
“This is our money — we are giving it to them to help people and they are holding it back,” he said.
MP Alexander Stafford said he had written several letters to RMBC in support of Mr Tindall.
He said: “In my view, Mr Tindall should be given the local business support grant that is available to businesses that have been told to close.
“To tell dog trainers that they should operate their business online is unrealistic; to tell dog trainers to encourage non-essential travel for clients to participate in one-on-one meetings is, in my view, also wrong.”
Rotherham Council did not respond to a request for comment on the claim it had appeared to approve of a breach of lockdown rules.
The local authority also stood by its position on the amount of financial support offered to Mr Tindall, saying while it sympathised with Mr Tindall, “because his type of business is not included in the list set by Government for businesses forced to close by legislation, we cannot pay a grant in this category, as he has requested”.
A spokeswoman added: “However, further financial support has been provided to Mr Tindall through the council’s own discretionary scheme.
“We are in the process of reviewing this fund to see if there is more we can do to help businesses like Mr Tindall’s that are not eligible for the Government’s schemes.”