Maggie O'Carroll, CEO of The Women's Organisation
Image Source: The Women's Organisation
Maggie O'Carroll, CEO of Liverpool-based social enterprise The Women's Organisation

Member Article

Regions must catch up with London in Grant Aid for Small Businesses

**Thousands of small businesses across the country are missing out on up to £25,000 in government grants because of how they pay their business rates, but this is not the case for businesses based in the City of London council area. **

The City of London Council has this week made a commitment to include businesses which do not pay their rates directly to their Local Authority, such as those that occupy serviced office spaces, and have so far been missing out on vital Coronavirus business support grant funding due to current government guidance.

The Capital’s Local Authority is also ensuring that businesses there which have not yet successfully applied or qualified for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) will be accepted for the schemes, providing they fit the basic grants criteria. In another important move, it has also confirmed that payments will be retrospective and made directly to the small businesses and not their landlords.

City of London Council Member Peter Dunphy, who made representations to secure the commitment for City businesses, points out that this move was made through the Council’s own jurisdiction and that it would be down to each Local Authority as to whether they follow suit.

Business leaders in the North West have been quick to praise this provision put in place to protect London businesses and want to see this support replicated here.

Liverpool and Manchester social enterprise, The Women’s Organisation, together with leaders from across the UK, are lobbying government to ensure that serviced office tenants who pay their business rates through landlords can access the grant funding, just as they can in London.

The Women’s Organisation has already sent its key concerns and recommendations to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with support from Kim Johnson MP.

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation, said: “By tying the eligibility of these grants to the Business Rate relief schemes, there are unintended consequences which will result in legitimate small businesses that are contributing to the economy through the tax system not being supported through the scheme, as was originally envisaged by the Chancellor. This gap must be addressed as a matter of urgency, as successful and viable businesses are struggling to survive in the interim.

“We have been working directly with a number of government departments to inform them of the feedback we have received from the local business community and have made a number of specific asks from them which are key to addressing this issue. We hope to see these fundamental issues addressed, as has been done in London, as soon as possible here in the North West and nationally to protect SMEs, incomes and jobs.”

Erika Rushton, Creative Economist, said: “The impact of this business rates failure is not just felt by individual businesses, but on whole ecosystems which have been instrumental in creating jobs and value which will also be critical to the economy’s recovery.

“Take for example, a creative community at Islington Mill in Salford which is home to 150 enterprises. They will be lucky to get £10,000 to share, rather than the £1,500,000 they would have received had they required tenants to pay their own rates. Another example in Liverpool is Make CIC, which accommodates 70 enterprises, where some tenants will receive the full £10,000 to sustain their businesses, while those in the studio next door will get nothing because it wasn’t rated in the same way, or in time, with a loss across their three venues of over £1,000,000.

“Let’s not allow an unintended consequence of providing business assistance through an historic rates system destroy the very companies that are already proven to deliver both economic and social recovery.”

Help is also on hand from other sources, such as the Liverpool City Region’s “one front door” access point for business start-up and growth support, Enterprise Hub.

The programme, which has already supported over 1,700 businesses has made a rapid and effective transition to online support, now offering its services via phone or video conferencing, including a series of real time video training workshops for SMEs.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Sarah Brown .

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