Thursday, December 3, 2020

News: Rotherham expected to make Covid business grants stretch further


The leader of Rotherham Council has criticised central government for the way it seems to expect the borough to make business support funding stretch twice as far as other areas of the country.

In a bid to support businesses and self-employed people during coronavirus, the Government's Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) provides local councils with funding to support closed businesses that do not directly pay business rates as well as businesses that do not have to close but which are impacted.

As South Yorkshire entered into the Tier 3 (very high risk) level in October, part of the agreement with government saw the Sheffield City Region (SCR) negotiate a business support package of £30m, known as the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG).

£1.75m was allocated to target businesses in the hospitality, accommodation and leisure sector that have been able to open. £3m was allocated for businesses forced to close in Tier 3, such as pubs not serving meals; businesses forced to close since March 23, such as Nightclubs; and businesses forced to close due to the 2nd national lockdown.

£6m has been set aside to support the supply chain and another use of the ARG is a one-off payment of £500 for all taxi drivers.

£4m of the ARG is being passed on to local authorities to carry out a discretionary business support grant. On this, a paper to the Council's cabinet states: "The fund available to the Council is limited to £664k and as such the Council's scheme has been designed to have a mix of targeting the business areas that allows the Council to provide support to as many businesses as possible, whilst providing a payment value that is sufficient to support businesses in these challenging times."

Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, has written to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, on the issue.

He writes: "Rotherham, like the rest of South Yorkshire, has faced a longer period of restrctions than most of the rest of the country with the resulting economic impact. However, in terms of discretionary business support funding it has been treated the same as areas that were in Tier 1 prior to the national lockdown and which will return there this week.

"In Rotherham, the additional funding is required to cover at least three weeks in Tier 3, the national lockdown, and potentially further subsequent restrictions - in effect our Additional Restrictions Grant is expected to stretch twice as far as it must in other parts of the country."

Read added that the £30m for the city region will not cover the support needed for businesses until the end of March. He concluded: "Parity with other, less badly affected parts of Britain is not a lot to ask."

The Council has also been administering the Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) for businesses that were open as usual and were then required to close due to local restrictions. To date 1,229 businesses have received a business grant through the schemes, with total grants paid of £2.145m.

Images: RMBC


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