The following update on the business support grants is provided on behalf of the council’s Deputy Chief Executive and Section 151 Officer, Tim Willis
Local Restrictions Support Grants, broadly for businesses forced to close during lockdown and were registered for Business Rates.
Additional Restrictions Grants, broadly for businesses that were forced to close during lockdown and were not registered for Business Rates, and those that were not forced to close but suffered significant losses.
The Government announced in its Budget on 3 March that there would be Restart Grants for some businesses, and further discretionary funding for councils to distribute to businesses as well. The rules regarding these grants are still being finalised by the Government, but broadly, Restart Grants will mostly (not entirely) be for businesses that previously received an LRSG. The discretionary funding may be for businesses that previously received an ARG, but this depends on Government guidance and council policy.
There are changes to the rules so there are no guarantees as yet that if a business received an LRSG it will receive a Restart Grant; nor if a business received an ARG it will receive a further ARG payment.
The Government issued guidance on 17 March, updated it on 22 March and held a livestream for councils on 25 March explaining that answers to a substantial number of questions from councils. They also made it clear that a council has to prove that it has used all its existing ARG funding, before it can access the new funding. In early April, councils will be told what they need to do to provide this proof. They will also be told what their new ARG allocation will be, if they can prove they’ve spent the previous allocation.
Despite this uncertainty, the council is drafting a new policy so that we can move quickly as soon as we are able. The council’s previous ARG allocations amounted to £4.1m and we have paid out grants almost to that value. This means that we should be in a good position to pass the Government’s test. We don’t, however, know exactly when the Government will set out what they need from us, and we don’t know how quickly they will respond to our providing the proof of spending, and pay us the funding.
So we can’t yet say when further payments will be made and we can’t say how much they might be – it depends on the Government. This is frustrating as we know that local businesses need all the support they can get to help them manage the loss of income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and to help them re-open. We will keep you updated.