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Guidance issued on the £1.5 billion Coronavirus relief fund

Our end of year update earlier this week (link) turns out not to have been our last business rates update for 2021 as the government has now issued guidance on the Covid-19 Additional Relief Fund (CARF). This was delayed until The Rating (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) Act, which was granted Royal Assent on 15th December.

Covid-19 Additional Relief Fund (CARF)

This fund, totalling £1.5bn, was originally announced in March 2021 with the intention of providing some support to businesses whose Covid MCC appeals the Government intended to annul retrospectively. The guidance document is accompanied by a summary of how much relief will be allocated to each Local Authority based on a complex formula.

At this stage there is very little detail as to how Local Authorities are expected to distribute the relief, but the guidance does confirm a number of key aspects:

 

  • Relief should not be awarded to ratepayers who either are or would have been eligible for the Extended Retail Discount (covering Retail, Hospitality and Leisure), the Nursery Discount or the Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme (AGOSS)
  • Relief should not be awarded to ratepayers of properties that are unoccupied (other than those which have become closed temporarily due to the government’s advice on COVID-19),
  • Local Authorities must “direct their support towards ratepayers who have been adversely affected by the pandemic and have been unable to adequately adapt to that impact.”

 

Relief will be subject to Subsidy Control – these are the subsidy limits which replace EU State Aid rules. These rules are complex and applicants for CARF will need to declare that receipt of relief would not be in breech of various aspects of Subsidy Control.

Every Local Authority in England will now have to devise its own discretionary relief scheme, which will need its own set of principles as to which types of businesses might qualify, how they should demonstrate that they have been ‘adversely affected ’ and how much they might receive from the fund that has been allocated to the particular authority.  Councils will also have to set up application and decision-making processes and presumably protocols for dealing with objections and appeals.

We are concerned that after a 9 month wait for this initial guidance there will now be further delays as Local Authorities face the daunting task of devising their own schemes. Furthermore, in view of the timing it seems unlikely that any businesses will see the benefit of this scheme until later next year.

We will monitor progress as each Local Authority publishes its own scheme but, in the meantime, if you have any questions at this stage please do get in touch.

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Simon Green

Head of Business Rates

Alan Hampton

Partner

Graham Howarth

Partner