Small businesses hit by coronavirus to receive £3m council boost

Councillors have agreed to give grants totalling at least £3.6 million to scores of small businesses in Brighton and Hove.

The money is aimed at saving jobs, boosting key sectors and supporting essential services during the coronavirus crisis.

In the past few months Brighton and Hove City Council has handed out £63 million to more than 4,600 companies.

Officials and councillors are trying to encourage more firms to come forward if they qualify for the government-funded support.

But many others have fallen through the net to judge by councillors’ email inboxes, they said this afternoon (Friday 29 May).

The council’s Policy and Resources Recovery Sub-Committee agreed to give out grants of up £25,000, which will not have to be repaid, to businesses that did not qualify for the initial support.

The move won the backing of all three political parties – Labour, the Greens and Conservatives.

The council expects to have £5.5 million left over from the initial business grants scheme and wants permission to add this to its “discretionary” fund.

The proposal has the support of the three MPs for Brighton and Hove – Peter Kyle, Caroline Lucas and Lloyd Russell-Moyle – who have written to the government supporting the request.

Labour council leader Nancy Platts wants business leaders and organisations to sign the letter too.

Councillor Platts said: “It would be a powerful expression of how passionate we are about the city succeeding and making sure we plan our local recovery.

“It also emphasises the extent to which Brighton and Hove is a city which starts hundreds of small businesses and those many small businesses often grow into much larger businesses that employ many people.”

The council will give priority to businesses that meet one or more key criteria

  • Events
  • Arts, culture and creative industries
  • Retail
  • Business in shared work space and the managers of shared work spaces
  • Charities, community interest companies and third sector organisations with commercial operations
  • Businesses with high fixed costs that do not pay business rates
  • Locally based businesses in leisure including bed and breakfasts
  • Long-established companies that have invested in their business
  • Market traders with fixed locations and fixed costs
  • Businesses employing between 20 and 50 people or with high turnover

Government guidance and council policies will also rule out businesses including

  • Businesses that have already received a covid-19 business support grant
  • National or international chains
  • Businesses with more than 50 employees
  • Short-term residential and holiday lets (eg, Airbnbs)
  • Businesses that have been declared insolvent
  • Businesses that ceased trading before the 11 March 2020
  • Businesses in financial difficulty before December 2019
  • Businesses with no fixed costs (eg, rates, rent, mortgage)

Labour councillor Daniel Yates said that all businesses that qualified would have an equal chance to bid for grants, with checks and balances.

He said: “We don’t want to send that money back to central government. We don’t think they will spend it as well as we will.”

Conservative councillor Joe Miller agreed that the money would be best spent in Brighton and Hove.

He said that he had had an “unprecedented” number of emails from local businesses calling for discretionary use of grant funding for those who had “fallen through the net”.

Green councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty asked for help for freelance and self-employed people who he said were an “after thought” in the early stages of the pandemic.

He said: “I believe they are critical to the economy of the city. Yes, there has been the income support scheme but it is not clear if that has been extended.”

He was told that freelance and self-employed workers would be able to apply for grants but limited funds meant that they were less likely to be successful.

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