COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund
The Cabinet were informed of the COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund and their approval was sought to delegate authority for the design and implementation of the COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund Scheme to the Director (Corporate Services), in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Performance & Administration.
The Director (Corporate Services) explained that on 25 March, the Government announced plans to provide an additional business rates support package, worth £1.5 billion, to support businesses in England affected by COVID-19 but not eligible for existing support linked to business rates. A total of £1,762,857 had been allocated to Gravesham Borough Council for the CARF Scheme, which was required to be applied to the business rates account of eligible businesses during the 2021/22 billing period (01 April 2021 to 31 March 2022).
The Director (Corporate Services) advised that 3.2 of the report listed the expectations from the Government in how the funding was expected to be used to grant reliefs to eligible businesses.
The Chair was happy that further funds had been received which would be utilised to support local businesses but raised concern that the spending had to be rushed due to Government deadlines. The Chair hoped that other local Councils were able to spend the money they received and make positive use of it before the end of the 2021/22 period.
In response to a Members question, the Director (Corporate Services) advised that if the money received from Government was not spent in its entirety by the 31 March 2022 deadline, then there would be a reconciliation process.
The Director (Corporate Services) further explained that another scheme was announced on 21st December by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The announcement set out the intention to provide a further £1 billion in support for businesses most impacted by Omicron across the UK. Under the support scheme, businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England would be eligible for one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises, plus there would be further discretionary Additional Restrictions Grant funding made available for local authorities to support other businesses primarily in the supply chain to those sectors. The Director (Corporate Services) concluded that there was still some work to be done before the 31 March 2022 deadline and her team would work to ensure that money was spent.
Cllr Thandi praised the Councils ability to support those who needed it the most and spend the money given by Government for various projects effectively. Last year, the Government gave the Council money to go towards Discretionary Housing Benefits and the Council were one of the only authorities to spend all the money given by the deadline which meant that extra grant money was awarded to the Council this year.
Cabinet thanked officers for all of their hard work over the last year and in particular noted the positive feedback received from the public about the refuse teams that had volunteered to collect the rubbish in the Borough on the New Year’s Day bank holiday.
Resolved that Cabinet:
· Delegated authority to the Director (Corporate Services), in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Performance & Administration, to develop a COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund Scheme and associated policy, and to make the necessary arrangements to assess eligibility and determine award of funding to eligible businesses
· Delegated authority to the Director (Corporate Services) to make any further technical amendments to the scheme where further government advice was issued and ensure that the Portfolio Holder for Performance & Administration was kept informed of any such amendments required