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.

It was reported earlier in the year that discussions were progressing with the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) regarding ‘appeals’ made due to the pandemic, only for discussions to stall. Emergency regulations subsequently came into immediate effect which excluded certain considerations from being reflected in the rateable value of property.  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 the evening of 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 which Local Authorities 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. Experience dictates that some councils will be proactive and responsive, whilst others less-so. Furthermore, each Authority’s 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.

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