Cheshire East Council has today (28th May) launched a £4.28m discretionary fund to support small businesses.
The scheme will be open for applications from Monday (1st June) at 8am. The council is asking prioritised businesses that think they may be eligible, to prepare their evidence in advance – as allocation will be on a first-come-first-served basis.
The funding, which will be issued in a phased approach, will initially be open to applications for a 14-day period for the following prioritised businesses:
● Small businesses in shared offices or other flexible work spaces, such as business centres and science parks, which do not have their own business rates assessment;
● Regular market traders, who do not have their own business rates assessment;
● Bed and breakfast businesses, which pay council tax instead of business rates; and,
● Charity properties in receipt of charitable business rates relief, which would otherwise have been eligible for small business rates relief or rural rate relief.
It is anticipated that the majority of grants awarded will be for £10,000 or less although some retail, hospitality and leisure businesses may be eligible for grants of £25,000.
The funding policy, which was agreed today (28th May), has strict eligibility criteria including mandatory requirements set by government, which businesses will need to review before they apply. Some of the criteria are that businesses:
● Are trading from a business premises in Cheshire East;
● Are able to demonstrate relatively high ongoing fixed property-related costs;
● Can demonstrate they have suffered a significant fall in income due to the Covid-19 pandemic;
● Have fewer than 50 employees;
● Were trading on 11 March 2020 and are not in administration or insolvent;
● Are not eligible for any other central government cash grant;
● In receiving the grant, it would comply with State Aid requirements; and,
● Occupy a property, or part of a property, with a rateable value of below £51,000 or annual rent below £51,000 or annual mortgage payments below £51,000.
Councillor Nick Mannion, Cheshire East Council's cabinet member for environment and regeneration, said: "These grants offer a very much needed lifeline to some businesses, which have been unable to claim for existing government grant schemes – but the funding is limited.
"We have gained assurance from government that we can use our discretion to make support payments to business outside of their list but the need for prioritisation is clear and we will have to phase our approach based on this need. Sadly, this money will not be able to help all the businesses in Cheshire East that need it.
"We would advise any business owners, who think they meet the prioritised criteria, to submit their application form as soon as possible, when the scheme opens at 8am on Monday 1 June.
"The application form will be on the council website and you will need to submit some detailed evidence so that your business' eligibility can be assessed. We would recommend businesses prepare this detailed evidence in advance as applications will be dealt with in order of receipt and grants will be awarded until the funds run out.
"Our business teams will be doing all they can to allocate this new funding to those who are eligible but, with a finite pot of money, we ask for patience and kindness to staff, who are trying to do all they can to help and support as many businesses as possible at this difficult time."
More information, including a full list of criteria and evidence required before an application can be submitted, can be found online.
The discretionary grant scheme application form will be available online at 8am on Monday, 1st June, until 8am on 15th June.
Businesses that are eligible for this scheme will be assessed against the agreed policy, which can be viewed on the website. If sufficient grant funds remain after the first phase of applications, the council may offer future phases to additional priority businesses against varying criteria.
Businesses that have received money from other grant schemes, such as the small business grant scheme or the retail, hospitality and leisure grant scheme will not be eligible for a discretionary grant.