A senior councillor described his administration’s approach to business support payments during the Covid-19 pandemic as “like the tortoise and the hare”.

Cllr Adam Swersky, who is responsible for finance and emergency response at Harrow Council, referenced the fable in response to a query about its performance in paying out government grants to help businesses cope with the impact of the virus outbreak.

He acknowledged that Harrow had “struggled in the beginning” – where it was among the slowest at processing in the country – but that it is now in the “top tier” of local authorities.

According to government statistics, as of Monday (July 6), the council had paid out more than £36 million in financial support – an achievement Cllr Swersky said he was “extremely proud of”.

The data also shows it has made payments to 100 per cent of businesses – a total of 2,451 – it identified as being eligible for grants.

However, Cllr Swersky explained that some “complex” cases remain outstanding and that the council is in the process of finalising things.

“We just need to work with them as quickly as we can – the reality is there’s just some back and forth needed now,” he said.

Earlier in the crisis, the administration’s approach was criticised by the Tory opposition.

Cllr Paul Osborn, leader of Harrow Conservatives, said it should have prioritised these payments rather than plead for more financial support from central government.

He said it was essential to “take all the steps necessary to get this money to hard-pressed local businesses”.

The Government has also issued discretionary funding grants to local authorities to benefit those yet to benefit from support schemes.

Cllr Swersky explained Harrow has processed around half of its allocation and it is assessing how to utilise the rest of the money.

However, he reiterated his belief that it is a “very small amount” in the grand scheme of things and we “shouldn’t pretend it’s going to solve the problems faced by businesses in Harrow”.