Council launches its new discretionary rate relief scheme for businesses

Jun 4, 2020 | Business

Businesses in County Durham are being invited to seek financial support following the extension of grants schemes.

Durham County Council is extending the business rates grants schemes it has been administering on behalf of the government during the coronavirus pandemic, and is encouraging companies that were not previously able to access support to apply.

The extended scheme seeks to fill some of the gaps in the original grants schemes through which over 8,500 businesses have received in excess of £95 million of support in line with national eligibility criteria, with an estimated 360 grants totalling £4million still to be paid.

The council has been allocated just under £5million of additional funding and asked to develop a local policy which prioritises:

  • Small businesses in shared offices or other flexible workspaces;
  • Regular market traders who do not have their own business rates assessment;
  • Bed and breakfast operators who pay council tax instead of business rates;
  • Charity properties in receipt of charitable business rates relief which would otherwise have been eligible for small business rates relief or rural rate relief.

The council’s policy reflects this government guidance. In addition, the council’s policy focuses on providing support to the following areas:

  • Private nurseries that were not eligible for support under the previous scheme;
  • Small manufacturing businesses with small retail outlets within the property that sell to the public, but which were not eligible under the previous scheme;
  • Businesses involved in the supply chain to the retail hospitality and leisure industry (wholesalers) but which were ineligible for support under the previous scheme as they did not retail to the public;
  • Businesses must be able to demonstrate ongoing fixed property costs and be able to evidence significant loss of income. Businesses which have already received a grant from the council and those accessing other government support are ineligible.

Cllr Carl Marshall, the council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We are really pleased to have paid out more than £95m in grants so far to help more than 8,500 county businesses through these unprecedented times. We are not resting on our laurels though and are determined to ensure every business that is eligible accesses this support and ensure the remaining 360 businesses we have identified as being eligible come forward and apply for their grants.

“We welcome the extension to these schemes, however, the £5million of funding provided is simply not enough. It is insufficient to meet the needs of all the businesses that were ineligible for support under the original scheme. I fear there will be many more businesses disappointed than what we can support.

“The national guidance we have received is clear on which businesses we should target and eligibility criteria we need to apply. Our local policy has been developed in line with these national guidelines, but we have been able to fill some of the gaps in the original retail, hospitality and leisure grants scheme.

“We would encourage any companies in County Durham which have not applied for a grant to find out whether they are eligible – there is plenty of information on our website, which has been updated to reflect the council’s new local discretionary grants scheme.

“We are determined that no eligible business is left without this support and now we have finalised the details of our extended scheme we are open for applications. We will do everything we can to get this funding flowing as quickly as we responded to the initial scheme.”

The grants are designed to help micro and small businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Guidelines around which businesses are eligible for the grant have been set by the government.

One of the key eligibility criteria is that a business must have been occupying a qualifying business premises that was listed in the council’s rating list at 11 March.

Businesses can find out more about the financial support available to them, and apply, by visiting http://www.durham.gov.uk/covid19business