Councils get discretionary £617m fund for 'top-up' grants to struggling businesses

New ‘top-up’ grants available for left-out firms

The new discretionary ‘top-up’ fund caters for small businesses with ongoing fixed property costs. The kinds of businesses that may now qualify for help include those in shared workspace offices, regular market traders and small charities, along with bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates.

To receive the grants businesses must have fewer than 50 employees and be able to show a significant drop in income due to coronavirus restriction measures.

The maximum grant size will be £25,000, with an option for £10,000 or other payments depending on local circumstances, the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy said.

Local authorities will have full discretion to allocate funds and make payments to other businesses not specifically mentioned in guidance if need be.

The small business grant regime is designed to supplement the 12-month business rates holiday announced by the Chancellor in his March “coronavirus” Budget. The holiday applies to all businesses that pay rates while the small business grants are intended to support businesses that do not pay rates. In addition, the government added a couple of extra funding options for local councils to administer:

  • Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) – £10,000 available to firms that qualify for the small business rate relief scheme or rural rate relief scheme, in properties with a rateable value of less than £15,000.
  • Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant (RHLG) – £10,000 grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value of up to £15,000; those with property valuations between £15,000 and £51,000 will be eligible for £25,000.

Up to 27 April local authorities had paid out £7.5bn to more than 614,000 businesses under these two schemes from a budgeted £12.3bn, so the discretionary £617m represents a 5% uplift, the BEIS reported. With the business rates holiday taken into account, the total relief provided to businesses through local councils will now add up to £22bn for the year.

While recipients can just sit back and wait for the existing support grants to arrive, the discretionary nature of the new funds makes it more likely that advisers to firms struggling without any previous help may need to contact local councils to advance their case to get one of the new top-up grants.

The department will issue further guidance and the exact amounts available for each local authority next week.

AccountingWEB’s business rates update article gives a full rundown on the coronavirus business rates holiday and support grants.



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