COVID-19 Business Rates Support for 2020/21

 Business Support Grants - Progress Update

Last update: 9.00 am May 18, 2020 / Business Support Grants Paid: 3214 with a value of £38,360,000 / Grant Applications with outstanding queries: 534 / Outstanding requests for a new bill (Change of Occupier): 577

InvestSefton is Sefton Council business support service, we offer free information and advice – for all non rates enquiries please go to www.investsefton.com.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced several measures aimed at supporting businesses during the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Contacting The Business Team
We are now working on checking eligibility for awards and notifying business. This page provides an update on progress together with links to important information you should read before contacting the Council. Please also refer to the Frequently Asked Questions published by the Government (see list below).

Due to the exceptionally high volume of work created by the Business Support Grant the Business Rates Team we have introduced temporary restrictions to telephone calls to enable the team to resolve outstanding queries as quickly as possible.
Telephone calls can only be taken between 9.00 am and 4.00 pm, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

If you have already completed a Business Support Grant Form or told us about a change to your details please do not chase progress by phone or email as the Business Rates Team will contact you if they require further information. The number of enquiries following up progress slows down our ability to resolve all outstanding issues.

We will provide regular updates on our Social media and on this page regarding progress.

Thank you for your patience, we are taking these measures to allow the team to concentrate on processing the Grant Forms and new bill requests we have received as quickly as possible.


In response to the Coronavirus the Government announced there would be support for small businesses, and businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. This support will take the form of two grant funding schemes, the Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund.

Sefton Council is aware that this is a particularly anxious time for business. If you have already completed an online form you do not need to contact us again as we are unable to give a date when payments to individual businesses will be paid. Please read the important information regarding the administration of the grants below.

If you have read the guidance and you think you are eligible for a grant, please provide some necessary details by completing the following online form

Please also make sure you have read the following information before submitting the form.

The announcement that the payment of grants were to be administered by the Council has created an unprecedented level of demand on the Business Rates Team. If you have completed an online form or e-mailed us with a service request, we will respond as quickly as we can but due to the extra demand this will take a few days. Please do not e-mail or call us asking for progress as this slows down the payment of the grants.

When submitting an online form, you will receive a reference conforming your form has been submitted. You will not receive an email acknowledgement.

When sending an email, you will receive an acknowledgement. You do not need to send a follow up to your original message.

We can only make payments to the business bank account not to a personal bank account.

If the named bank account on the online form does not match the name on the business rate account, we may need to ask for additional verification and evidence.

When completing the form please double check you have entered the correct bank account number and sort code. Incorrect details will be rejected by the BACS payment system.

The Government has stated that to be eligible for a grant the business had to be the eligible ratepayer on March 11, 2020. A significantly larger than expected number of business have contacted us to state that the property changed hands before that date. This information will take time to process and investigate.

The minimum evidence we will require you to provide is:

  • A copy of your lease or license to occupy
  • Copies of utility bills showing usage prior to March 11
  • Copy of your bank statements showing evidence of rent payment made prior to March 11
  • Copies of supplier invoices/receipts prior to March 11.

When completing the online form for the Business Support Grants you will need some key security information from your latest Business Rates Bill. Bills for 2020/21 were posted on March 13, 2020 and dated March 16, 2020. We are aware that businesses have had to close at short notice and consequently the bill may have been posted a property that had already closed due to Government advice. Consequently, we are receiving a large number of requests to send copies of bills via e-mail or to an alternative address.

Ideally we would encourage a business owner to visit their business address to collect the bill posted on March 13.  If this is not possible, then for the business rates team to send out a copy of the bill, we must be able to verify that the person making the request is the business owner, or a person with an official position within a company, for example a director. Where we cannot verify your details through any information we already hold, then we will require proof that you are the business owner before we can agree to your request for a copy bill. Evidence may be in the form of supplier invoices or utility bills for the business, which must be less than three months old and must pre-date March 13, 2020, the date for eligibility of the grant.

If we cannot verify you as the business owner, then we will have to send the copy bill to the address we currently hold on our records. We must do this as a protection against possible fraud and to ensure that only those entitled to a grant receive it. All requests for a copy bill, and any supporting evidence, must be sent to our Business Rates team by email

Please note that we cannot accept any telephone requests for a copy bill at this time.

Please also note that we do not currently have the facility to send bills via email.

 

Small Business Grant Fund

Properties with a rateable value of up to and including £15,000, and where the business was in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief on March 11, 2020, are eligible for a grant of £10,000

Properties that were not eligible Small Business Rate Relief are not eligible for the grant.

Properties that were eligible for Rural Rate Relief on March 11, 2020 will also be eligible for this grant.

Eligible recipients will receive one grant per property.

 

Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Grant Fund

Properties which on the March 11, 2020 had a rateable value of up to and including £15,000 but less than £51,000 and would have been eligible for a discount under the business rates Expanded Retail Discount Scheme (Business Rates Holiday) had that scheme been in force for that date are eligible for grants as follows:  

  • Properties with a rateable value of up to and including £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000
  • Properties with a rateable of over £15,000 but less than £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000

 Eligible recipients will receive one grant per property.

A Business Rates holiday for 12 months for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England is to be granted. A 100% discount will be applied to your bill from 1st April 2020. The Government has published detailed eligibility and is available (see list below).

You will not be required to apply as the discount will be applied automatically.

Amended bills with the Expanded Retail Discount applied have now been issued. If you have not received an amended bill, and after reading the guidance below you think your business qualifies for the discount, e-mail us business.rates@sefton.gov.uk with a brief explanation of why you think you qualify. Please quote ‘Retail Discount 20/21’ in the subject line of your e-mail. Please make sure you quote your business address and business rate reference in the body of the e-mail.

Properties that will benefit from the Nursey Discount will be hereditaments occupied by providers on Ofsted's Early Years Register and wholly or mainly used for the provision of the Early Years Foundation Stage.

You will not be required to apply as the discount will be applied automatically.

We currently expect to be able to apply the discount to eligible properties by April 17, 2020 with revised bills to be issued the following week.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment and support to maintain services and supplies to the Council during the Covid-19 outbreak.

We know that this is a very challenging time and that we will all need to work together in the coming weeks.

We also appreciate that some suppliers may struggle to fully meet their full contractual obligations, and that we may need to alter our requirements, temporarily suspend some services, or change ways of working to do what is necessary for our community.

During this period the Council would like to work together with our contracted suppliers to provide support where it is possible in order that we can resume normal contract service delivery as soon as possible once the Covid-19 outbreak is over.

Supplier support – prompt payment

To support all Sefton Council suppliers and Sefton Council funded schools suppliers cash flow we have implemented a payment scheme which will ensure immediate payment on cleared invoices on a daily BACS run.  There is no need for suppliers to contact us to implement this change, however Suppliers may request updates on invoice payment by contacting central_accounts.payable@sefton.gov.uk

Supplier relief

In addition to supporting the prompt payment of invoices Sefton Council has been working with Government and are able to offer some supplier relief (support) on a case by case basis according to the nature of the services, goods or works being provided, the challenges being faced, the contracted terms and the constraints of any statutory requirements.

Every contract will have its own unique characteristics and therefore the relief available will vary case by case, but some examples could be as follows:

  • Extension of current contracts to ensure continuity of supply to Sefton Council.
  • Forward ordering of goods and services if required
  • Change is service delivery model to facilitate continuity of supply to Sefton Council
  • Payment in advance or interim payments where justifiable.
  • Extensions to time of delivery where justifiable.
  • Redeployment of capacity into other areas of Council needs

Please note that the Sefton Council is itself experiencing staffing issues due to isolation and school closures and cannot guarantee a response time to any enquiries but we will therefore aim to achieve this support to the best of its ability.

There may be other forms of relief that may be helpful in the short-term so please feel free to suggest those if it ensures we can maintain business continuity.

Supplier relief is currently available up to the end of June 2020, and this may be extended further at a later date if we are advised of this by Government.

Requesting Relief

If you need some flexibility or support up to the end of June 2020 and would like to request some contractual relief you should make contact with your normal Sefton Council contract manager or day to day contact to discuss the options that might be available.

Please could you then follow up with a formal relief request by email to your contact and to central.procurement@sefton.gov.uk  with your request and your rationale and justification in order that Sefton Council can quickly determine the best solution in the best interests of both parties and our community.

Supplier Obligations during the Relief period

Sefton Council needs all suppliers to ensure that business continuity is maintained wherever possible, and that you enact your business continuity plans to do your utmost to support the Council’s requirements.

In some cases the Council may need to make quick decisions with imperfect information, and any supplier relief offered is conditional on suppliers agreeing to act and work on a total open book basis with appropriate cost transparency in order that the Council can continue to meet its value for money obligations.   

To qualify suppliers must accept Sefton Councils Model Interim Payment Terms (which are available on request) and commit to continue to pay staff and subcontractors and make cost data available to the Sefton Council during this period.

If it is found that any supplier is found to be taking undue advantage or failing in their duty to act transparently and with integrity, then the Council has a right to act to recover payments made.

Thank you for your support  at this difficult time.  By working together we aim to deliver the best possible outcomes for Sefton businesses and residents throughout the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Chancellor announced a number of other measures as part of his package of support:

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme;
  • Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments;
  • Statutory Sick Pay relief package for SMEs;
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank;
  • A new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans;
  • The HMRC Time To Pay Scheme.

Further details can be found at:

The Invest Sefton website

The Government website 

 

Business Support Grants FAQs (pdf 205KB)
Small Business Support Grants - Guide for Businesses (pdf 204KB)
Expanded Retail Discount Guidance (pdf 206KB)

Last Updated on 18 May 2020

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