Business 'top-up' scheme launched - but funds are limited warns Councillor

Release Date: 04 June 2020

Small businesses not eligible for the Government’s COVID-19 support grants or extended business rates relief, can now apply for a new ‘discretionary’ business fund to help them manage the impact of the pandemic. However, the Council warns that there may not be enough to go around.

The Government has stated that the funding is for small businesses that were trading on the 11th March 2020, with significant ongoing fixed property-related costs. Businesses must be small, under 50 employees and they must also be able to demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop of income due to Coronavirus restriction measures.

But the Government has provided just £2.149m (5% of the funding made available for the original business grants scheme) to help these small and micro businesses who previously were not eligible for the Small Business Grant Fund or the Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Grant Fund.

Richmond Council estimates that there are 12,500 businesses in the borough that currently employ fewer than 10 employees and, whilst some of these will have accessed the earlier Government funding, many will not have been able to.

In order to provide meaningful size grants to all these businesses, the Council would need £50m to £100m.

Cllr Robin Brown, Lead Member for Finance and Resources at Richmond Council, said:

“I welcome that the Government has listened to the case that we have made that many borough businesses, through no fault of their own, were slipping through the net.

“However, the funding we have been allocated will not stretch far enough to cover all the needs of eligible businesses.

“We are inviting applications from many of our smaller businesses who missed out on support first time round. Realistically with the limited sum available to us grants will be lower than we would like and not every business can be included.

“It’s important that we support as many livelihoods and jobs as possible, particularly those connected to small independent businesses which don’t have a large financial support network. I hope that the Government rethink their funding package – otherwise I fear that many sound local businesses will struggle to survive this crisis through no fault of their own."

Find more information on the grant.

Due to the limited amount of funding available, the Council has been asked to develop further criteria of eligibility, based on local need. Therefore, for a strict period of 10 working days from 4 June 2020, the below businesses will now be invited to apply for grants:

  • Charity properties in receipt of mandatory charitable business rates relief which would otherwise have been eligible for Small Business Rates Relief. Applications will not be considered for properties where Housing Associations, Educational establishments, Government funded organisations or organisations which are spin offs from local authorities are the liable parties.
  • Small or micro-Businesses in shared offices or other flexible workspaces with fixed ongoing property costs of up to £22,500 p.a.
  • Other businesses in shared offices or flexible workspaces, with fixed ongoing property costs between £22,500 and £51,000 p.a., which would otherwise have qualified under the Extended Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Scheme
  • Regular market traders with ongoing property costs, such as rent or pitch fees, who do not have their own business rates assessment
  • Bed and breakfast businesses which currently pay Council Tax
  • Medical businesses excluded from the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Scheme with a rateable value of less than £51,000 or fixed ongoing property costs of less than £51,000 p.a.
  • River based businesses with ongoing costs for mooring or marina fees

Notes for editors

If you are a journalist and would like further information about this press release, contact Elinor Firth on 020 8487 5159.

Reference: P205/20

Updated: 30 June 2020