Riot-hit businesses have until new year to claim cash help

Businesses which lost money because of the riots in August will have until the new year to claim financial help, it was announced yesterday.

The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, told councillors from areas affected by the disturbances that the £20m High Street Support Scheme would now be open until early January, after an extension to the deadline for applications. Hundreds of businesses have already put in claims.

The fund is designed to help shops repair the damage caused by the summer's "sad, sorry and shameful" rioting, Mr Pickles told the Local Government Association conference in London.

However, he rebuked councillors who asked if the Government's austerity measures could have been a contributory factor in the riots.

He said those who blamed the cuts were "kidding themselves" and "living in cloud cuckoo land".

"We're talking about violence and thuggery that is far, far beyond the pale," he said.

The police are still scouring footage from the disturbances to make more arrests, he added.