1.1 In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has announced several financial assistance schemes to support businesses in their local area under Local Covid Alert Level Very High (LCAL3) or national restrictions.
1.2 The government is not changing the legislation relating to the provision of grant funding to businesses. Instead the government will, in line with the eligibility criteria set out in the Government Guidance for Local Authorities documents, reimburse local authorities that use their discretionary relief powers under section 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 (as amended), to grant relief.
1.3 It will be for individual local billing authorities to adopt a local scheme and determine in each individual case when, having regard to this guidance, to grant relief under section 47. This policy sets out the administration and eligibility requirements for businesses who wish to claim a RESTART grant within the Huntingdonshire District Council area.
1.4 Government Guidance for Local Authorities document, together with subsequent Frequently Asked Questions documents (issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy – BEIS), provides a broad list of businesses required to close, or who may remain open, as well as minimal national qualifying criteria being stipulated by the government.
2. Aim of this policy
2.1 This policy sets out the approach taken by Huntingdonshire District Council in relation to the RESTART grant. Other ((LRHG and LRSG) Grant schemes and ARG / ARGE schemes have a separate policy document, as necessary.
2.2 This policy should be read in conjunction with the document "Restart Grant – Guidance for Local Authorities", first published in March 2021 (or future amendments). In addition, a document of Frequently Asked Questions will be published by BEIS, when required, and this Policy aims to follow those decisions.
3. Administration of the RESTART grant scheme
3.1 The Restart Grant scheme is for businesses on the ratings list only.
3.2 The Restart Grant is a one-off grant.
3.3 The Restart Grant will support non-essential retail premises with one-off grants of up to £6,000 in Strand One of the Restart Grant.
The following thresholds apply for these businesses:
a. Businesses occupying hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value of exactly £15,000 or under on 1 April 2021 will receive a payment of £2,667.
b. Businesses occupying hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value over £15,000 and less than £51,000 on 1 April 2021 will receive a payment of £4,000.
c. Businesses occupying hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value of exactly £51,000 or over on 1 April 2021 will receive a payment of £6,000.
3.4 The Restart Grant will also support hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym business premises with one-off grants of up to £18,000 in Strand Two of the Restart Grant.
The following thresholds apply for these businesses:
a. Businesses occupying hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value of exactly £15,000 or under on 1 April 2021 will receive a payment of £8,000.
b. Businesses occupying hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value over £15,000 and less than £51,000 on 1 April 2021 will receive a payment of £12,000.
c. Businesses occupying hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value of exactly £51,000 or over on 1 April 2021 will receive a payment of £18,000.
3.1 Huntingdonshire District Council is responsible for administering the RESTART grant scheme to eligible businesses within its geographical boundary.
3.2 Under the RESTART grant scheme, the government has allocated a funding allowance to each eligible local authority, according to estimated business needs.
3.3 The government has instructed Local Authorities to collect certain information relating to applicant businesses, and also requires Local Authorities to make certain checks to identify ineligible or fraudulent applications.
3.4 All Local Authorities are required to follow this guidance and conduct activity to provide assurance that the grants have been paid out in line with the eligibility conditions for these schemes.
3.5 Businesses that will be supported under the above scheme are those which are identified within the appropriate Government Guidance document, and legislation, during the period in which the grant decision was made by Huntingdonshire District Council’s Business Grants Team.
3.6 Unless instructed by central government, the Business Grants Team are not obliged to review previous decisions in light of contradictory changes to future Government Guidance documents.
3.7 Eligibility criteria for this scheme is as described within the appropriate Government Guidance document.
3.8 The main criteria set out in the Government Guidance document, and adopted by Huntingdonshire District Council, includes all of the following.
3.9 The applicant must be the current ratepayer and able to provide their Business Rates reference, which can be found on their latest Business Rates Bill.
3.10 The grant is only available to the current ratepayer, as at 1st April 2021, and may be liable for recovery if it is later found out that the recipient was not the ratepayer on the eligible day.
3.11 Any changes to the Rating List (Rateable Value or hereditament) after the qualifying date for the particular scheme, will be ignored for the purpose of eligibility or level of financial reward.
3.12 Businesses must have been trading (in line with the BEIS definition) on 1 April 2021, to be eligible to receive funding under this scheme.
3.13 Businesses that have chosen to close, rather than being required to do so, will not be eligible for this grant.
3.14 For the avoidance of doubt, businesses that were in administration, are insolvent or where a striking-off notice has been made, are not eligible for funding under these schemes.
3.15 Businesses will need to notify Huntingdonshire District Council if they no longer meet the eligibility criteria for additional grants at any point in any local restrictions period. For example, if they become insolvent.
3.16 The business must complete an application form when requested to do so and supply accurate information in each field of the application form, within 14 days of the request, or before 30th June 2021, whichever is the earliest date.
3.17 Businesses will be notified of the decision to pay, or decline, an application as soon as possible. If the business wishes to dispute the decision, they may do so via the district council’s Complaints Procedure.
3.18 Having exhausted the district council’s Complaints Procedure, the investigating manager’s decision will be final, and no further communication will be entered in to.
3.19 The business may ask the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman to decide whether the district council was at fault in the process used to determine the decision, but the actual decision - to accept or decline an application for a Grant rests solely with the district council.
3.20 Ratepayers may decline payment of a RESTART grant by notifying the Local Authority of their decision via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. COVID-19 business grant subsidy allowance
4.1 The EU State aid rules no longer apply to subsidies granted in the UK following the end of the transition period, which ended on 31 December 2020. This does
not impact the limited circumstances in which State aid rules still apply under the Withdrawal Agreement, specifically Article 10 of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The United Kingdom remains bound by its international commitments, including subsidy obligations set out in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) with the EU. View information on BEIS Guidance for public authorities explaining the subsidies chapter of the TCA, World Trade Organisation rules on subsidies, and other international commitments.
4.2 Under these rules, a business may receive the Small Amounts of Financial Assistance Allowance (£335,000 as at 02/03/2021) and the COVID-19 Business Grant Allowance (£1,600,000 per single economic actor – For example: per business).
4.3 The above allowances include any sums previously received under the State Aid subsidy rules.
4.4 Where the above thresholds are reached, the business may be able to access a further allowance under the COVID-19 Business Grant Special Allowance (see RESTART grant Government Guidance document for further details).
5.1 As prescribed for in the guidance provided to Huntingdonshire District Council by the government, grant income received by a business is taxable therefore any grant paid under this scheme will be subject to tax.
5.2 Only businesses which make an overall profit once grant income is included will be subject to tax.
6. Managing the risk of fraud
6.1 Huntingdonshire District Council will not tolerate any acts of fraud in relation to its Business Grant schemes. Any persons found to be submitting a fraudulent claim by, for example, falsifying records, will be reported to the police for criminal investigation and could face prosecution. Robust action will be taken to recover any monies paid in respect of the fraudulent claim.
6.2 The council will undertake comprehensive checks to ensure that grants are paid only in respect of genuine applications.
6.3 The council reserves the right to reclaim any grant that has been paid in error, or as a result of a fraudulent claim.