Small Business Discretionary Grant Fund open to Central Bedfordshire businesses By Olivier Le Moal AdobeStock_168894985

Applications for new government scheme open to Central Bedfordshire businesses on Monday 8 June

At a special (remote) meeting of Central Bedfordshire Council’s Executive (5 June 20200, Lidlington business owner, Miranda Smythe, asked the Executive to consider home-based businesses when allocating funds from the new Small Business Discretionary Grant scheme.

The new, Government-funded scheme, is aimed to help those small businesses, badly hit by the pandemic which were not covered by the Business Support Grant Scheme or other financial support.

Ms Smythe, who runs a learning and development consultancy, said that she recognised that the Council had to make some tough decisions with limited funding. But she asked them to factor in a group of businesses that she said had been “explicitly excluded” from all other forms of government support:

“Home-based businesses are hard hit, there are no funds set aside because they do not have physical premises or pay business rates.

“There is zero provision and it’s estimated that there are 1.6 million home-based businesses in the UK who are impacted upon by this.”

Ms Smythe added that these companies still have outgoings to pay and that many company owners are reluctant to borrow money when they do not have the income to fund repayments.

“The Discretionary Grant gives you [the Council] the power to choose to include businesses from this neglected group

“I am asking you to allow companies who do not have commercial premises eligibility to apply for a Small Business Discretionary Grant.”

Home-based businesses are not covered by the new categories

In response, Cllr Eugene Ghent, executive member for Assets and Housing Delivery, said that CBC had followed government guidelines on the businesses that are eligible for these grants.

“It [the scheme] has specifically been designed to support businesses with high ongoing fixed property related costs. Being home-based, therefore, doesn’t qualify.”

The six categories of business are:

  1. Those in shared spaces without an individual business rates assessment
  2. Regular market traders
  3. Bed and breakfasts that pay council tax instead of business rates
  4. Charity properties
  5. Suppliers to the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors
  6. Children’s nurseries

He added that if the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) makes more funds available or if CBC doesn’t spend all the pot through either lack of demand or actual need, It could then consider widening it.

Grants of up to £10,000 can be made, but if the value of eligible applications is more than the money available, they will be reduced pro rata. Cllr Richard Wenham, deputy leader and executive member for Corporate Resources, said:

“We will be contacting businesses we know are eligible but there will be many, as they pay business rates as part of their rent, that aren’t as visible to us.

“So we urge owners to visit our website and apply as soon as possible as there is only a two-week window for applications.”

As well as being from one of the six types of business listed above, applications must meet four strict criteria set by the Government.

“The most important is that a business must have relatively high fixed costs for premises in terms of rent or commercial mortgage.

“But unlike the Business Support Grants, applicants will not have to show they pay business rates directly to us. This will help the many businesses whose rates are included in their rent.”

Businesses based in Central Bedfordshire can find full details of the scheme on Central Bedfordshire Council’s website. Applications open on Monday 6 June 2020. 

Businesses based in Bedford Borough can apply via the Borough Council’s website.