1. Introduction

a. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has announced several financial assistance schemes to support businesses in their local area under Local Covid Alert Level Very High (LCAL3) or national restrictions.

b. The government is not changing the legislation relating to the provision of grant funding to businesses. Instead the government will, in line with the eligibility criteria set out in the Government Guidance for Local Authorities documents, reimburse local authorities that use their discretionary relief powers under section 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 (as amended), to grant relief.

c. It will be for individual local billing authorities to adopt a local scheme and determine in each individual case when, having regard to this guidance, to grant relief under section 47.

d. The document Additional Restrictions Grant – Guidance for Local Authorities (updated 22 March 2021 and further amendments) together with subsequent Frequently Asked Questions documents (issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy – BEIS), provides a framework to assist Local Authorities in designing their own local ARG scheme.

2. Aim of this policy

a. This policy sets out the approach taken by Huntingdonshire District Council in relation to its Enhanced ARGE scheme, commencing 1 April 2021. Other grant schemes (LRHG, LRSG, and RESTART) and previous ARG / ARGE schemes have a separate policy document, as necessary.

b. This document should be read in conjunction with the document "Additional Restrictions Grant – Guidance for Local Authorities", first published in March 2021 (or as later amended). In addition, a document of Frequently Asked Questions will be published by BEIS, when required, and this policy aims to follow those decisions.

c. The above documents are available through the GOV.UK website. They are produced by BEIS – The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Finance and support for your business.

3. Administration of the post - 1 April 2021 Enhanced ARGE scheme

a. The Enhanced ARGE scheme will only support businesses that are not entitled to receive a RESTART grant.

b. This scheme is only available to businesses that were not ordered to close under the current or previous COVID-19 legislation.

c. This scheme is not available to Charities, Not for profit companies, or Community Amateur Sports Clubs.

d. This scheme provides a one-off payment to ratepaying businesses who can supply a current Business Rates reference, as recorded on the Huntingdonshire District Council business rates database.

e. Ratepaying businesses may apply for one payment per separate legal entity (For example: per sole trader, partnership, or limited company) rather than per hereditament, and the level of payment will be based upon the qualifying hereditament with the highest rateable value occupied by the business.

f. The qualifying hereditament must be occupied, not empty, and must be in use by the business shown as the current ratepayer on the business rates database as at 1 April 2021.

g. This scheme will only support businesses that can prove a loss of 30% or more as a result of COVID restrictions. To prove a loss of 30% or more, businesses must supply a letter from a Certificated Accountant or professional Book Keeper, dated after 1 April 2021, on letter headed paper, clearly stating their qualifications.

The following thresholds apply for these businesses:

  • Businesses occupying hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value of exactly £15,000 or under on 1 April 2021 will receive a one-off payment of £6,000.
  • Businesses occupying hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value between £15,001 and £51,000 on 1 April 2021 will receive a one-off payment of £12,000.
  • Businesses occupying hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value of £51,001 or over on 1 April 2021 will receive a one-off payment of £18,000.

4. General matters for all businesses applying for this scheme:

a. This scheme is based upon a fixed sum, which is a proportion of the funding already supplied to Huntingdonshire District Council, to be distributed under the Additional Restrictions Grant scheme.

b. Applications will be considered in the order in which they are received by the district council’s Business Grants Team, and once the fixed fund limit is reached, no further applications will be considered.

c. The business must complete an application form when requested to do so and supply accurate information in each field of the application form, together with documentary evidence.

d. Businesses must have been trading (in line with the BEIS definition) on 1 April 2021, to be eligible to receive funding under this scheme.

e. For the avoidance of doubt, businesses that were in administration, are insolvent or where a striking-off notice has been made, are not eligible for funding under these schemes.

f. Businesses will need to notify Huntingdonshire District Council if they no longer meet the eligibility criteria for additional grants at any point in any local restrictions period. For example, if they become insolvent.

g. Funding may be liable for recovery if it is later found out that the recipient was not the ratepayer on the eligible day.

h. Any changes to the Rating List (Rateable Value or hereditament description) after the qualifying date of 1 April 2021, may be ignored for the purpose of eligibility or level of financial reward. This is entirely at the discretion of Huntingdonshire District Council.

i. Businesses will be notified of the decision to pay, or decline, an application as soon as possible. If the business wishes to dispute the decision, they may do so via the district council’s Complaints Procedure.

j. Having exhausted the district council’s Complaints Procedure, the investigating manager’s decision will be final, and no further communication will be entered in to.

k. The business may ask the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman to decide whether the district council was at fault in the process used to determine the decision, but the actual decision - to accept or decline an application for a Grant rests solely with the district council.

l. Ratepayers may decline payment of ARG funding by notifying the Local Authority of their decision via email localrestrictions.grants@huntingdonshire.gov.uk

m. Unless instructed by central government, the Business Grants Team are not obliged to review previous decisions in light of contradictory changes to future Government Guidance documents.

5. COVID-19 business grant subsidy allowance

a. All funding allocations under this scheme are subject to the rules below. Businesses must disclose any breach to the upper limits, and return overpayments to Huntingdonshire District Council.

b. The EU State aid rules no longer apply to subsidies granted in the UK following the end of the transition period, which ended on 31 December 2020. This does not impact the limited circumstances in which State aid rules still apply under the Withdrawal Agreement, specifically Article 10 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

c. The United Kingdom remains bound by its international commitments, including subsidy obligations set out in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) with the EU. View information on BEIS Guidance for public authorities explaining the subsidies chapter of the TCA, World Trade Organisation rules on subsidies, and other international commitments.

d. Under these rules, a business may receive the Small Amounts of Financial Assistance Allowance (£335,000 as at 02/03/2021) and the COVID-19 Business Grant Allowance (£1,600,000 per single economic actor – For example: per business).

e. The above allowances include any sums previously received under the State Aid subsidy rules.

f. Where the above thresholds are reached, the business may be able to access a further allowance under the COVID-19 Business Grant Special Allowance (see RESTART grant Government Guidance document for further details).

5. Tax

a. As prescribed for in the guidance provided to Huntingdonshire District Council by the government, grant income received by a business is taxable therefore any grant paid under this scheme will be subject to tax.

b. Only businesses which make an overall profit once grant income is included will be subject to tax.

6. Managing the risk of fraud and recovery of ineligible grants

a. Huntingdonshire District Council will not tolerate any acts of fraud in relation to its Business Grant schemes. Any persons found to be submitting a fraudulent claim by, for example, falsifying records, will be reported to the police for criminal investigation and could face prosecution. Robust action will be taken to recover any monies paid in respect of the fraudulent claim.

b. The council may undertake comprehensive checks to ensure that grants are paid only in respect of genuine applications.

c. The council reserves the right to reclaim any grant that has been paid in error, or as a result of a fraudulent claim.