Businesses in England in the non-essential retail sector are eligible for one-off grants of up to £6,000, effective from 1 April. While businesses in the hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym sectors, which are reopening later, will be eligible for one-off grants of up to £18,000, dependent on rateable value. The £5bn of government funding available through the Restart Grants scheme will be delivered by local authorities.
This is coupled with £425m of top-up funding for the ongoing Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) scheme for councils to distribute to businesses in particularly urgent need of additional support – which could also be businesses which don’t necessarily pay business rates like tour operators, B&Bs, caterers, freelancers and wedding service providers.
“Now we need to press on”
Small Business Minister Paul Scully and Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston have written to the leaders of 314 councils in England urging them to do all they can to pay out grants quickly and ensure businesses in their local authority area get the support they need.
Scully said: “We have made extraordinary efforts to stand by small business owners. Now we need to press on and continue getting money to them in good time to ensure that our communities are ready to build back better following the pandemic.”
In the letter, Ministers noted that some local authorities decided on eligibility criteria and application processes for the grant schemes quickly, while others have taken too long to do so. Councils are being pressed to ensure funds are paid out as quickly as possible to relieve pressure on businesses. To help get cash out more quickly to those who need it, the ARG funding will be provided to local authorities if existing scheme money has been spent by 30 June 2021.
“Local authorities need to move quickly to get support to hard-pressed local businesses as the economy emerges from the pandemic,” said Alison Ring, ICAEW Director, Public Sector. “However, that need for speed makes it even more important that councils invest in strong processes to ensure funds get to the right places and to minimise the risk of fraud and error.”