(Cabinet Member with Special Responsibility Councillor Whitehead)
Report of Head of Shared Service
Cabinet received a report from the Head of Shared Service that sought approval to implement a Covid-19 Additional Relief Fund to cover a new business rate relief scheme introduced by Government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The fund would be used to support those businesses affected by the pandemic but were ineligible for existing support linked to business rates (such as previous Covid related reliefs). Details of the scheme were set out in Appendix A to the report.
The options, options analysis, including risk assessment and officer preferred option, were set out in the report as follows:
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic the Government allocated funds to local Councils to support businesses financially in the form of business grants and also awarded rating relief for certain business types. e.g. extended retail relief. The aim of CARF is to assist those businesses that do not qualify for assistance but have been affected by the pandemic.
Option 1 – Agree to the proposal as recommended
The scheme sets out a formal approach to awarding relief and follows government guidance to determine eligibility. The approach adopted seeks to maximise use of funds in an open and equitable way, after the scheme has closed in order to limit the risk of the Council being liable for a large overspend on the fund. The Section 151 Officer, Head of Shared Service will consult with Cabinet Member for Resources to determine a fair and equitable distribution of funds.
Option 2 – Refuse to access government funds on behalf of affected businesses
The Council would not access CARF funds and no relief would be awarded. Subsequently local businesses that have not previously received help would need to pay more in business rates.
It is recommended that Option 1 be approved. The scheme enables a formal approach to eligibility, with criteria in line with Council priorities, offering financial support in the form of rate relief to those businesses that have previously been impacted by Covid-19 but received no financial assistance.
Councillor Whitehead proposed, seconded by Councillor Lewis:-
“That the recommendations, as set out in the report, be approved.”
Councillors then voted:-
(1) That Cabinet approves the use of the proposed COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund (CARF) as detailed in the report, in line with government guidance and available funding.
(2) That Cabinet delegate the final allocation of the funding support to businesses to the S151 Officer and Head of Shared Service, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources.
(3) That Cabinet authorise the S151 Officer to make final amendments to the policy to accommodate evolving guidance and any technical issues in relation to the scheme and to make all other necessary arrangements for its implementation with immediate effect.
Officer responsible for effecting the decision:
Head of Shared Service
Chief Finance Officer
Reasons for making the decision:
The decision is consistent with Council priorities with the fund:
· supporting existing enterprises at a difficult time in their business journey
· used to benefit local communities
· helping to build a sustainable and just local economy for people and organisation
The proposals as set out are considered a good use of fund to limit the risk of overspend and to achieve the greatest benefit for a range of businesses that have suffered financial hardship during the pandemic.