York Council still not processed all grants for micro businesses

The Council says that it has made fewer than 800 grants as part of its support scheme for small and “micro” businesses launched nearly 2 months ago.

The Council is not saying what is causing the delays to the grants which were intended to provide £1000 for up to 1000 York businesses.

Despite this slow progress, the Council has now said that it is extending the scheme to take advantage of an additional £2.2 million in government support funding.

“Top up” grants could be available to a total value of up to £10,000 for those who have already received help as well as to new applicants.

In a statement the Council says,

“Council Coronavirus scheme upgraded to provide support to more of York’s businesses

Local businesses which have so far missed out on government support could benefit from grants of up to £10,000, as the council extends its scheme for small and micro businesses in the City.

The grants aim to benefit small businesses including those in shared offices and flexible work spaces, science parks and incubators. Regular market traders without a business rates assessment. Nurseries, B&Bs paying council tax instead of business rates, and charity properties which all missed out under previous schemes will also be eligible.

Shortly after lockdown was implemented, City of York Council acted quickly to create its own £1m grant scheme for businesses which do not qualify for government support. To date, this scheme has helped nearly 800 local businesses.

Following lobbying efforts, the government has recognised the additional need for financial support and has provided a discretionary fund to local authorities. City of York Council received £2.21m of this funding and has agreed to use it to deliver more grants to the city’s small and micro businesses.

The grants will be staggered between £2500 and £10000, depending on the size and nature of the business, with the following available:

  • Small business and childcare nurseries set to receive: £10000
  • Micro business: £5000
  • B&Bs and market traders who live in York able to apply for: £2,500

Businesses must have been trading before 11 March 2020; have a rateable value or annual mortgage of below £51,000; demonstrate an ongoing fixed property cost and significant financial impact of the coronavirus. It is not available to any business eligible for any other government COVID grant.

The council will open applications for the enhanced grants from Monday 1 June and in the meantime, the Council will continue to process applications for the existing scheme, in order to ensure no business misses out on any funding, unless they do not meet the criteria. All outstanding applicants and previous grantees will be contacted by the council next week, as many will be eligible for a top-up under the enhanced scheme.

Businesses are advised to check the criteria closely and visit www.york.gov.uk/COVIDMicroGrant to prepare key information to apply online.

Councillor Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council, said:

This is an exceptionally tough time for so many businesses, especially the small and micro enterprises that characterise York’s creative and independent economy.

“From the very beginning of this crisis, we have worked to ensure our local businesses received swift support from the Council, particularly those who did not meet the criteria for government support.

I am pleased that City of York Council has been recognized as one of the fastest local authorities in the country to distribute grants and rates relief, totaling £110m. We want to go further to support our business community and that is why we have set up this fund to give vital cash injections to small and micro businesses in the city.”

Councillor Andrew Waller, executive member for the economy and strategic planning, said:

I’m extremely proud that we acted quickly to provide a lifeline to many who fell through the cracks of the government support, with nearly 800 small businesses receiving grants so far. Now the government has recognised this need, we can use the funds to give more support to help our businesses survive and adapt.

“We know there are still many York businesses who need more support, and we will continue to press government for more action on their behalf while looking at the local support we can offer.”

The council acted quickly to distribute £110m of grants and rates relief to over 3000 York businesses, and created its own £1m grant scheme to benefit around 800 more which did not qualify for government support.

Under the discretionary fund, local authorities have been given an additional 5% of the total value of grants already distributed in York, and some outline guidance on which businesses should benefit. However, this means councils have to use local knowledge to decide how to fairly distribute the money to benefit as many businesses as possible.

Depending on the volume of applications and the amount of additional checking and verification required, the council aims to make weekly batches of payments starting on 8 June, and hope to pay all grants within four weeks

York Council speeds up coronavirus grant payments for local businesses

Council leaders have reassured the city’s businesses that the council is delivering on its promise to accelerate payments of government grants.

Over £7m had been paid by close of play yesterday (Thursday 9 April), meaning payment rates have increased every day this week.

Staff are working through the bank holiday to make sure that this rate of acceleration continues. Staff are working through the bank holiday to make sure that this rate of acceleration continues. Over £25 million (subject to some applications being held where there is concern about fraud) additional will be waiting for banks to process when they reopen on Tuesday.

The council has received nearly 3000 applications and has been working to speed up a process which includes government-defined requirements to:

  • collect company information including VAT registration details
  • clear every application through the government’s anti-fraud systems
  • verify bank details and company identity

The government has now issued new guidance and offered support with post-payment checks to help councils speed things up.

Councillor Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council, said:

“Getting this money into accounts quickly – and securely – is a priority. Local authorities across the country are working to balance quick payments with checks to stop the fraudsters who are sickeningly trying to take advantage of these unprecedented circumstances.

“We continue to review our practice every day, share experience with other local authorities, redeploy staff and make daily improvements to accelerate payments.”

On wider support for business, Councillor Aspden added:

“We have acted quickly to get support to our businesses. We applied £66m of business rates relief to 4000 accounts in a matter of days, and grant payment values have doubled every day this week.

“Like businesses up and down the country, we’ve had to do this while operating many of our secure systems and customer service operations from staff’s homes and with lower staff levels. 

“We’ve developed an emergency grants scheme for the many York businesses who miss out on government support and deferred rent for all our commercial tenants, and have spoken up for business at a national level since this crisis began.

“This helped to secure more support for our 12,000 self-employed people, as well as improvements to the business interruption loan scheme.”

Councillor Andrew Waller, executive member for the Economy and Strategic Planning, said:

“These 3500 businesses are worth around £2bn to York’s economy and create thousands of jobs. We understand that importance of getting this money where it is needed most – into the accounts of our city’s businesses.

“I’ve been talking to businesses and partners, and to the officers faced with designing and delivering a secure and quick distribution of around £114m of government relief to businesses.

“I’ve always assured businesses that we’ll do everything we can to gather pace. This is happening, and will continue until every business has its grant.

“We’re providing a range of support, advice and guidance for businesses, including free advertising across our local media for any businesses still operating.

“For all the support available please visit www.york.gov.uk/BusinessSupport.”