Brighton and Hove businesses to share lockdown grants worth £13 million

Lockdown-affected businesses in Brighton and Hove are to share grants totalling more than £13 million.

Two relief schemes are expected to open to applicants next week although council officials are still currently working through detailed government advice and guidance issued earlier this week.

The focus of the small grants is likely to be on compensating firms forced to close because of the second national coronavirus lockdown – and keeping people in jobs.

The initial details have been set out in a report by officials from Brighton and Hove City Council which will run the two business support grant schemes.

Three senior councillors are due to be told more about the schemes tomorrow (Friday 13 November) at a “virtual” meeting of the council’s Policy and Resources Urgency Sub-Committee.

The two types of business relief are the Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG), initially worth almost £7.4 million to Brighton and Hove, and the Additional Restrictions Grant, worth £5.8 million.

The report set out initial details of the LRSG which is worth up to £3,000 over a four-week period.

It said: “Businesses that were open as usual and providing in-person services to customers from their business premises and then required to close for a consecutive period of no less than 14 days as a result of (the lockdown) will be eligible for this funding.

“Unlike the previous business grants scheme this grant is not based on rate reliefs and businesses with more than one eligible property will receive grant for each property.

“All types of businesses that are registered rate payers and meet the eligibility criteria, including CICs (community interest companies), social clubs, etc, can claim the grant.

“The expectation is that eligible businesses affected by the lockdown, many of which will be in a weakened position by the first lockdown, will be needing any grant funding as quickly as possible.

“The grants this time are smaller amounts but are expected to continue if the lockdown continues beyond the initial (Wednesday) 2 December review date.

“The council’s Revenues and Benefits Team will identify from existing data which businesses are potentially due to receive a grant based on government criteria and they will be contacted and invited to apply via an online portal.

“However, which firms are eligible is not always clear from the records we hold and so firms which believe they should be eligible to automatically receive a grant will be encouraged, through a communications campaign, to apply, again via the specially designed online portal.

“This will involve proactive communication with partners such as the Greater Brighton Economic Board, Federation of Small Businesses locally, traders’ associations, Chamber of Commerce and other groups in the council’s business networks to make sure businesses are successfully reached.”

Hove Town Hall

The Additional Restrictions Grant is a discretionary scheme to “help those businesses which – while not legally forced to close – are nonetheless severely impacted by the restrictions”.

The report said: “This could include businesses which supply the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.

“Businesses that are in administration, insolvent or where a striking-off notice has been made, are not eligible for funding under this scheme.”

Half the £5.8 million budget is likely to be given out quickly but all the money will be spent by the end of the next financial year in March 2022.

The report said: “No further discretionary business grants are likely to be forthcoming if there are further lockdowns.

“It is proposed therefore that initially the main purpose of the grants should be to enable businesses to survive by supporting them with their overheads during the immediate lockdown and so the money needs to be distributed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“It is proposed that about 50 per cent of the grant pot is distributed very quickly through an initial round. The grants will support businesses that don’t pay business rates and improve fairness by addressing any loopholes in the hastily formed main scheme.

“It is proposed that the remaining 50 per cent of the grant pot is retained and either used in a similar fashion in the event of a future lockdown or partial lockdown affecting key sectors.

“If that does not happen then the money can be used more strategically for grants for rebuilding businesses to support economic recovery.”

The council was given an £83 million grant pot for businesses for the first nationwide coronavirus lockdown earlier this year.

It paid out £68 million to just over 5,000 businesses with premises in Brighton and Hove before the scheme closed in August.

A further £3.7 million was paid out in discretionary grants to 307 businesses not covered by the main scheme although 600 other applicants were unsuccessful.

The council had £11 million left and asked the government to be allowed to keep it to help firms during the recovery but the government said no and the cash was returned.

The council’s Policy and Resources Urgency Sub-Committee is due to meet at 2pm tomorrow (Friday 13 November). The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.

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