Officials from all local authorities have been told, in no uncertain terms, to ensure funds from the new Closed Business Lockdown Scheme and £594m discretionary fund are allocated as quickly as possible.
The official guidance will not arrive with the L.A.'s until next week to confirm whether the one-off grants of £4,000, £6,000 or £9,000 can be automatically allocated to previous applicants from the November lockdown, without the need for a further application process, but I understand that in a briefing call yesterday with the Business Secretary, Alok Sharma the mood music was clear.
An expedited process should be accommodated wherever possible and there was even a suggestion from Sharma that the L.A's consider if the current recurring fortnightly payments, might now move to a six week upfront payment, which could then potentially be paid out alongside the top-up CBLP grant from mid to late January.
For businesses with rates listings in retail, hospitality and leisure the Closed Business Lockdown Payment will provide additional one-off funding to be paid alongside a recurring amount from the Local Restrictions Support Grant ( Closed) of between £1,334, £2,000 and £3,000 per month and will be a vital boost in January and February for businesses closed until further notice, by law.
Discretionary Grants for non-rates listed businesses
On this occasion, there will now be much less centralised instruction on how each L.A.'s share of the £594m discretionary funds is going to be distributed to the non-business rates listed businesses hit hardest in their area, but at the same time a clear instruction to move far more quickly.
To be fair to the local authorities they had seen previous written guidance in the Autumn indicating the previous Additional Restrictions Grant discretionary fund may not be topped up and could have to be eked out until March 2022, before the additional fund was then announced on Tuesday.
Ironically any ability to target locally, means a delay in allocation of the funds as each council will have to devise it's own policy, after receipt of the outline guidance next week, and a further consequence of that will be no general rule across councils for previous recipients of Additional Restrictions Grants in December, many now now hoping for an automated second payment without need for a second application process.
It's certain though that a new round of discretionary applications will be needed, and it's therefore likely that once again documentation of loss of income, previous accounts and fixed property costs will have to be uploaded, even though the amounts paid in grants are likely to be much smaller than for the rateable business under the new CBLS, who may well see an automated payment process with no application required.
Eligibility for the previous A. R.G. discretionary grants was previously limited to businesses with fixed business property costs and therefore ruled out all home-based businesses. Under pressure from the Business Secretary to move far more quickly on this occasion to allocate these discretionary funds, the L.A's are sadly, likely to default to that less than perfect metric.
Councils need an equitable, generic benchmark to weigh one application against another, without being buried in mountains of documents per individual applicant, but fixed business property costs leaves many genuine home-based businesses owners closed again, and for a variety of reasons some of them are still excluded, and 10 months in, unable to generate income, or access either the self-employed income support scheme, furlough, or grants.
It's unlikely many councils will have the discretionary application forms posted ahead of the week commencing 18th January.
That eligibility information will appear on the relevant pages below.