Businessman slams council’s coronavirus grants in explosive live rant

Fenspirits owner Anthony Winterbourne streamed his explosive coronavirus grant rant to his near 100,000 followers

Fenspirits owner Anthony Winterbourne streamed his explosive coronavirus grant rant to his near 100,000 followers on Facebook live. - Credit: Facebook/Fenspirits 

A businessman, hailed a hero for his efforts during the pandemic, has slammed Fenland District Council for making it “impossible” to access Covid-19 recovery grants.   

Anthony Winterbourne switched production at his Fenspirits distillery to make hand sanitiser which he freely gave away.   

But now, as lockdown eases, Mr Winterbourne has given up hope of ever getting one of numerous grants for which both the council and MP Steve Barclay suggested.   

Anthony Winterbourne signing some Fenspirits products. 

Anthony Winterbourne signing some Fenspirits products. - Credit: Facebook

He let known his feelings in an explosive 10-minute-long live rant to hundreds of followers on his Facebook page.   

At one point he tells the council to “shove their grant where the sun doesn’t shine”. 

A Fenland District Council spokesperson said: “Fenland District Council has supported Mr Winterbourne’s business throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and to date has received three business support grants.

"Mr Winterbourne applied for a fourth grant but has yet to provide the sufficient financial evidence required to enable us to award it.

"Since the start of the pandemic our grants team has assessed, processed and delivered more than £34.6million in grant funding in 6,711 payments to local businesses using a thorough due diligence process.

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"It is entirely appropriate that we should ensure we have sufficient evidence before awarding public money.”

The Wisbech-based businessman says the council has made it “impossible to apply” for any of the grants that have been made available.  

With almost 100,000 followers on Facebook, Mr Winterbourne often uses his platform to voice his opinion but on Tuesday (May 11) he blew a fuse.   

Opening the stream, he said: “My MP kindly sent me some grant [information] which he said I should apply for and told me to go to my local council.    

Anthony Winterbourne preparing to host a live video.

Anthony Winterbourne preparing to host a live video. - Credit: Facebook

“So, I’ve been doing this for weeks and weeks behind the scenes and basically been jumping through all of their hurdles, I’ve had several grants that they keep putting me in touch with.   

“They are quite frankly not worth the paper they are written on because they make it so difficult and impossible to apply for that you’re never going to get them.”   

Speaking of Covid-19 and its impact, he added: “Throughout the last year, 80 per cent of our sales, which comes from shows, shops, delis, pubs and bars, has all been taken away from us.   

“We are a business, we have to survive and we have to do stuff, we weren't entitled to all of these shop closing grants because we weren't considered a shop.”   

After recently applying for a coronavirus support grant, Mr Winterbourne says he was asked by the council to provide more information.   

Just some of Fenspirits' products on offer.

Just some of Fenspirits' products on offer. - Credit: Facebook

He said: “What ended up happening was, [the council] said they needed more information, so my accountant sent it, which cost me more money.    

“Then they [the council] decided ‘no’, they totally, above and beyond what they said they wanted, asked for something else.    

“So, I decided, and from now on, they [the council] can shove their grant where the sun don’t shine because I was angry, I’m angry with myself.    

“I’m angry for thinking that I can rely on my government, my local council, to do anything to help or assist what we’re trying to do.    

“The fact that I’ve allowed myself to think that they would made me really bloody angry, mainly with myself, they can all shove it, they can all absolutely do one.   

“It’s a really bloody good job that I didn’t ask every single council member that walked in my distillery, or emergency service [worker], for validation.    

“I didn’t ask them for validation to give them something [hand sanitiser] that they needed, I didn’t ask for extra validation.    

“I had people walk in waiving their medical records, I said ‘put them away’, this is just what needs to be done.    

Anthony Winterbourne sporting a 'Bee Kind' t-shirt. 

Anthony Winterbourne sporting a 'Bee Kind' t-shirt. - Credit: Facebook

“My MP told me to apply for this and my council’s gone ‘no we’re going to mess you around for six, seven, eight weeks. Do you know what, they can go and do one.”   

Mr Winterbourne says the lack of support will spur him on to do well and boost business by himself, without a coronavirus grant.    

“The only way small businesses can survive in this world is by getting off their arse and getting on with it,” he added.   

“I’ll tell you what you’ve done ‘Mr Council’, you’ve reignited the fire in my belly like you would not believe, so now I'm on it.”   

Speaking of furlough, Mr Winterbourne said: “I was told by the government that if I maintained my staff through this pandemic, they would give me £1,000 for every member of staff in February.   

“I have six members of staff that I decided I’m not going to furlough anybody, “I’m going to keep everybody here, we’re going to fund it all ourselves because it will mess them up if we furloughed them.   

“It would mess up their mental health, it wouldn’t help them, and then in February they just look it away and said ‘no, it’s not going to happen’.   

Anthony Winterbourne (pictured) launched a 10-minute-long rant.

Anthony Winterbourne (pictured) launched a 10-minute-long rant. - Credit: Facebook


“So, they’re quite happy to literally and routinely kick me in the balls week to week, month to month, but they’re also happy for me to produce alcohol and send them alcohol duty every single day.    

“Yeah ‘thank you Ant, we’ll take your money there but on the other side of it, you can do one if you think we’re going to help you, but also we’ll send all our people in to take your stuff and use your stuff’.    

“I’m not a stupid person, but it’s so impossible to apply for it [the grants], you’re never going to get it, so if anybody wants to send me a grant, they can shove it up their backside because I am not applying for any more.   

“I will just crack on and do what we always do, which is work frigging hard and do what we have to do, we’re still at a point where we have no shows and cancellations.   

“I’m over the moon with where I am and with what we’ve got, but do you know what, they can all do one, absolutely do one.    

“So, if you think, in any way shape or form, that you’re going to have any hold over me, get me dangling carrots at grants (sic), you can shove ‘em, all of them, I’m not interested.    

“It’s unbelievable that you can do your very best when they need, when they want it, they’ll take it, but then the rest of the time they’ll just leave you out to dry.”   

“I feel a lot better now,” he said after finishing the 10-minute-long Facebook live rant.    

MP Steve Barclay has declined to comment.