A TOTAL of over £4.5 million was claimed in East Lancashire for the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, according to government figures.

The data shows that 470 restaurants across the region took part in the scheme last summer, claiming £4,541,400 between them.

The scheme was introduced in a bid to support the hospitality sector after the first lockdown and enabled restaurants to offer a discount to customers dining in and receive a reimbursement from HM Revenue and Customs for the same amount, but proved controversial after rising infection rates forced the government to introduce further lockdowns later in the year.

A University of Warwick study found that the scheme "may have substantially worsened the disease", however chancellor Rishi Sunak has insisted it would be too 'simplistic' to connect any one scheme with a rise in cases

The Treasury meanwhile has said that its own analysis suggests take-up of the scheme “does not correlate with incidence of Covid regionally”.

The scheme offered a 50 per cent discount on food and non-alcoholic drinks bought to eat in, up to a maximum of £10 per person, and was available all day every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday throughout August.

According to the figures gathered by HMRC, divided into parliamentary constituencies, Blackburn claimed the largest amount in East Lancashire with claims worth a total of £1,271,000 for 231,000 meals in 80 restaurants.

Close behind came the Ribble Valley with £1,256,000 worth of claims for 216,000 meals in 120 restaurants.

Somewhat further behind came Burnley with total claims of £784,000 for 145,000 meals in 72 venues followed by Rossendale and Darwen with £713,000 worth of claims for 112,000 meals in 76 restaurants.

Next came Pendle with £702,000 worth of claims for 121,000 meals in 63 restaurants.

Hyndburn was found to have claimed the lowest amount with a total of £521,000 for 88,000 meals in 59 eateries.

As a region the North West claimed £72,174,000 in discounts, the third highest figure in the UK after London and the South East.

Across the UK more than 106,500,000 meals were claimed for with a total discount of £611,674,038.