Small business rating relief grant – will some clients miss out?

An apparent flaw has emerged in the administration of one element of the governments Covid -19 relief programme which may mean clients missing out on the £10,000 grant for small businesses.

A £10,000 grant is available for businesses which have properties subject to business rating, but  are eligible for small business rating relief (SBRR). The grant is disbursed by the local authority and entitlement is automatic for business occupiers unless the property is private (such as stables, moorings, beach huts etc), car parks and parking spaces, or simply empty. Where the local authority has bank details, the payments will be made automatically, in other cases an online form will gather the details so payment can be made. Most such payments went through early in April.

Unfortunately, each local authority has set up their own software for information gathering. Most control access to this by way of a simple eligibility checker, but others seem to have unilaterally decided that certain properties may not be occupied as part of a business, and blocked access to payment process unless the ratepayer enters into email correspondence with the authority. Small on-farm solar PV arrays have certainly been caught by this glitch, but there could be other enterprises such as commercial liveries which are also affected.

Even worse, Government advice is that “if you are eligible, your Local Authority will be in touch with you to arrange payment.” It appears that in at least some cases, the blocking process has also disabled the emails or letters which should have been sent out early in April, so unless a ratepayer proactively goes through the local authority website and argues his entitlement, he will not even know that he has an entitlement which has arbitrarily been blocked. This is almost certainly not what government intended

Commenting on the glitch, partner and head of our Farming and Rural Business team, Keith Porter said:

Most clients will already have received their guidance letter, been through the registration, and received their payments, but some may still be in blissful ignorance, or waiting for a letter which will not arrive. Any clients who think they may be eligible for this grant should check the local authority website as soon as possible”.

For further information on the content of this blog, please contact Keith Porter on 01704 538888 or email keith.porter@mooreandsmalley.co.uk