Government Announces COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund
The Goverment has announced the COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund, whilst legislation stopping COVID-19 ‘MCC’ reductions receives Royal assent.
We reported earlier in the year that discussions had progressed with the Valuation Office Agency regarding ‘appeals’ made due to the pandemic, only for discussions to stall. Emergency regulations subsequently came into immediate effect that excluded certain ‘matters’ from being reflected in premises’ rateable values. At the time Government said that a law would be made in order to make this a retrospective measure, albeit they also confirmed at the same time that a £1.5bn fund would be made available for affected businesses.
On Wednesday evening (15th December) the Rating (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) Act 2021 came into effect, whilst at the same time the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities published its guidance for councils as to how they are to distribute the £1.5bn COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund (CARF). This is to exclude the retail and hospitality sector who, of course, have already received Retail Rate Relief, and also those business that received the Nursery Discount or the Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme.
Other factors that councils should consider when devising their policies are that CARF may apply to occupied premises (or those forced to close temporarily during the pandemic) and that support is to be directed towards sectors of business that have been unable to adequately adapt to the impact of the pandemic.
It will be down to each councils’ policy as to those businesses that may secure the relief, however inconsistencies and delays seem inevitable. Our experience tells us that some councils will be proactive and responsive, whilst others less-so. Furthermore, each councils’ share of the fund will be apportioned against the total rateable value in their area, which may lead to a generality that councils in London and the south are to receive more funding than elsewhere.
Scotland and Wales are yet to make announcements.