Additional Restrictions Grant (Discretionary) Policy From 1 April 2021

On Wednesday 3 March 2021 the Government announced new funding to support businesses that are required to close due to the restrictions being put in place to manage coronavirus and save lives. 

The grants announced take the form of further funding for Additional Restrictions Grant (Discretionary), and Restart Grants which replace the Local Restrictions Support Grant (in place from 5 November 2020 to 31 March 2021) for those businesses affected by the restrictions that have a Business Rates account. The Additional Restrictions Grant allows Ashford Borough Council to continue to support businesses through its local Ashford scheme between the 1st April and the end of June 2021 and this policy sets out the criteria for this scheme for this period. 

The main Restart Grant scheme is fully funded by Government and will be distributed by Ashford Borough Council in accordance with the guidance issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The Government recognised that some businesses that are required to close may not have commercial premises (and therefore won’t have a rateable value), and others won’t have been forced to close, but they will be significantly financially impacted. As such Local Authorities have been allocated a discretionary Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG), and the criteria for the Ashford scheme are set out below.  

This policy relates specifically to the Discretionary Grant element of the ARG funding.  Further work will need to be done to consider a response to business support and other support beyond the initial grants to support businesses beyond summer 2021.

This grants scheme is fully funded by Central Government and the funds will be administered by Ashford Borough Council in accordance with the guidance issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

ARG Eligibility Criteria

  1. This funding is available for business that have been forced to close, where companies are not covered under the  Restart Grant scheme, but have significant fixed costs which are not related to employment*.
  2. Businesses significantly affected** by business closures caused by national restrictions in place between 1 April 2021 and 21 June 2021. This grant will not be administered for periods of impact before these dates. These businesses will include those that provide products and services to the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors, or businesses in the events sector, that have been forced to close during the national lockdown.
  3. Businesses with a registered address in the Ashford Borough Council area will be eligible for this scheme. The business will need to be trading*** within the Ashford Borough. Where a business is registered in another council area (although has a presence in the Ashford Borough) the council will take a discretionary view on a case-by-case basis.****
  4. The business must have been actively trading on and before the 1 April 2021.
  5. State Aid regulations have changed following the UK’s departure from the EU. As such businesses will need to check they are complying with the allowances set out under the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA). Three allowance levels can be considered which include: the Small Amounts of Financial Assistance Allowance, the COVID-19 Business Grant Allowance and the COVID-19 Business Grant Special Allowance. It is the business’ responsibility to ensure they comply with the criteria set out in those schemes and inform the Local Authority accordingly prior to payment being made. If these rules are breached the responsibility lies with the applicant and, in line with the legislations, the Council can take action to recover the funding. An explanation of the new subsidy allowances can be found on page 13 of the ARG Guidance to Local Authorities
  6. This ARG (Discretionary) scheme will not support Top Up grants for the main Restart Grant scheme.  Where Top Up grants were considered in exceptional circumstances through the Ashford ARG scheme prior to the 31st March 2021, this will not be considered for the period from 1st April 2021 due to limitations of the funding allocations.
  7. The Ashford ARG (Discretionary) scheme will only be open to existing successful applicants to the scheme or those that have expressed a significant interest prior to the end of April 2021.  A new open application process is not planned due to the financial limitations of the scheme and the large number of successful existing applicants.

* Fixed Costs – any costs relating to the operation of the business that cannot be cancelled during this period. These could include property costs such as rent for non-rateable commercial premises, utilities, etc. Fixed costs do not include employee costs.

** Significant Impact – A statement will be required from the company showing that at least 50% of their revenue comes from businesses required to close within the defined sectors in point 2 above, and that this will have an impact on their income of at least 30%.

***Trading – a business that even if not registered within the borough on Companies House, has a presence in the area and is clearly trading from an address within the borough.

**** Market Traders – Market Traders will be paid by the Local Authority where their home address or commercial premises address is. The location of the markets they attend will not be considered as part of this grant scheme apart from in exceptional circumstances.

Exclusions to the Additional Restrictions Grant (Discretionary)

  • Businesses that are able to continue to trade and can operate their services effectively remotely.
  • Businesses that have chosen to close but not been required to will not be eligible for this grant, unless they can demonstrate Significant Impact** through cancelled orders for products and services to closed businesses in the retail, hospitality, leisure or events sectors.
  • Businesses which have already received grant payments that equal the maximum levels of subsidy allowances.
  • For the avoidance of doubt, businesses that are in administration, insolvent or where a striking-off notice has been made, are not eligible for funding under this scheme.

ARG Grants from 1 April to 21 June

In seeking to support businesses responsibly and fairly, Ashford Borough Council has designed an ARG policy from 1 April 2021 to 21 June 2021 based on dates set out in the Government’s Roadmap. The ARG from 1 April will comprise of standard ARG support and an ARG Restart Grant for eligible businesses, with businesses benefitting from either element based on key criteria. Priority will be given to those businesses that have already applied to ARG and have successfully received grant funding. All ARG grants will be considered from 1 April 2021 and will not be backdated.

Businesses are assessed on their ability to re-open on key dates as set out by the Roadmap, considering the nature of their premises, the effect the restrictions have on the business and whether or not they are in key sectors (as defined for the Restart Grant). The criteria for Restart Grant eligible businesses is listed on pages 9 to 12 of the guidance.

For the Ashford ARG Policy, the following additional sectors have been included in the ARG Restart Grant category:

  • Coach and Tour Operators
  • Businesses wholly supplying products and services to the Leisure, performance, events, wedding and conferencing sector
  • Brewing Companies or Businesses wholly supplying products to the brewing industries.
  • Businesses wholly supplying products to the pubs, hotels, cafes and restaurant businesses.
  • Businesses supplying or reliant on foreign holidays and experiences

The key dates considered under this policy are 29 March, 12 April, 17 May and 21 June following Government guidance.

Based on the ARG Eligibility Criteria, all eligible businesses will receive ARG at a standard rate. Where a business has already received ARG, this is calculated on a daily rate from the November 2020 period grant. Where a business has not received ARG, this will be calculated as follows.

Businesses with a Business Rates account in commercial premises:

  • For properties with a rateable value of £15k or under, grants to be £1,334 per 28-day period
  • For properties with a rateable value of between £15k-£51k grants to be £2,000 per 28-day period
  • For properties with a rateable value of £51k or over grants to be £3,000 per 28-day period

Where a business does not have a Business Rates account or is not in a commercial property, the council will assess the level of grant based on the amount of fixed costs incurred during the period and any other relevant factors (such as the business’ ability to operate and generate income).

The minimum ARG grant that can be provided under this policy to eligible businesses is £500 per 28-day period.

Where a business would be eligible for a Restart Grant if they did pay business rates, this will be calculated and paid instead of ARG at the standard rate. The ARG Restart Grant levels are calculated at the same level of the main Restart Grant levels applicable to those eligible businesses.

For eligible businesses with a Business Rates account, the level of ARG Restart Grant will be:

Strand 1: Non-essential Retail

  • For properties with a rateable value of £15k or under, grants to be £2,667 one-off grant
  • For properties with a rateable value of between £15k-£51k grants to be £4,000 one-off grant
  • For properties with a rateable value of £51k or over grants to be £6,000 one-off grant

Strand 2: Hospitality, Leisure, Accommodation, Personal Care and Gyms

  • For properties with a rateable value of £15k or under, grants to be £8,000 one-off grant
  • For properties with a rateable value of between £15k-£51k grants to be £12,000 one-off grant
  • For properties with a rateable value of £51k or over grants to be £18,000 one-off grant

For businesses that would be eligible for a Restart Grant but do not have a Business Rates account, the level of ARG Restart Grant will be based on the level of ARG grant received in November 2020 (if applicable), the amount of fixed costs incurred during the period and any other relevant factors (such as the business’ ability to operate and generate income).  Where a business would qualify for a higher grant under the normal ARG payments compared to the ARG Restart Grant allocation, the higher level will be paid to the business.

Home based businesses eligible for a Restart Grant, excluding accommodation providers and catteries and kennels, will be paid a lower rate of ARG Restart Grant at half the level of the minimum Strand 1 or Strand 2 levels, as specified above. Where a home based business eligible for Restart Grant does not have fixed costs at a level that would warrant a Restart Grant as set out above, the standard ARG rate would apply.

Evidence

Closed businesses applying for ARG (Discretionary) funding will be required to make a statement that confirms their eligibility. The council places responsibility on the applicant to agree that their statement is correct to the best of their knowledge. In addition, businesses that are required to close will need to provide evidence of their trading status. This will be in the form of a bank statement (showing business/applicant’s name, registered address with income within the last 3 months).

Open businesses that are applying for ARG (Discretionary) funding will be required to make a statement that confirms their eligibility. The council places responsibility on the applicant to agree that their statement is correct to the best of their knowledge. In addition, businesses that are not required to close will need to provide evidence to demonstrate they supply companies that are required to close and an impact on income. This will be in the form of a bank statement (showing the business name or applicant’s name, registered address with income within the last 3 months) and an invoice (showing the business name, client name and registered address dated within the last 3 months).

Deadline/Timeline

Existing successful applicants or Expressions of Interest will be contacted by the end of April 2021, and must confirm whether they are still eligible along with providing additional information required by Government for this round of grant funding.  Grants will be paid as a one off payment for the period up to the end of June 2021.  

Appeals

An appeals process will be in place where a business disputes the decision made by the council. The appellant will need to email discretionary.grants@ashford.gov.uk requesting an appeal within 1 week of receiving a decision notification. Appeals will need to include a statement providing additional information and supporting evidence. The application and appeal documents will be considered by an appeals panel chaired by the Director of Finance and Economy. The panel will make its recommendation and Director of Finance and Economy will act as the final arbiter and will make a final decision. The appellant will subsequently be notified of the outcome of their appeal.

Queries

All enquiries about this grant funding and this policy should contact the Economic Development Team using the email address discretionary.grants@ashford.gov.uk.