5 March 2021

Four £20 notes

Local changes to COVID business grant criteria and a new initiative to refund the cost of business licences could help plough funds back into the hands of business owners across the South Hams and West Devon.

More local businesses can now access more money thanks to three changes to the way South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council are allocating COVID Business Grant funds from the Government.

  1. Lower claims threshold. A business that is eligible for funding now only needs to declare a 10% reduction in income or net profit to be able to claim financial support.
  2. Higher grant payments. Recognising that grant levels may not be enough to sustain local businesses through this tough time, the councils have upped the ARG payment for impacted business-rated businesses and impacted/closed non-business-rated businesses. It will now match the LRSG closed addendum scheme for November and January lockdown. This means businesses which weren't required to close but chose to because loss of footfall resulted in lower turnover can now access the same amounts as those businesses who were instructed to close during the national lockdowns. This is to recognise that open businesses with dramatically less turnover and not furloughing staff would still have significant costs. For example, a business that was previously eligible for £1,400 will now receive £2,000. Business owners who have already received money through the grant scheme will automatically receive this additional payment into their bank account. Businesses who have not yet applied are urged to do so as quickly as possible, as grants for the November and January lockdown close to new applications at the end of March
  3. Licence refunds. Recognising that many local businesses, from taxi firms and pubs to cake decorators, will have experienced a very disrupted year, the Councils have decided to refund last year's business licences. To apply for this refund, businesses need to complete a quick 2-minute form via the councils' website: www.westdevon.gov.uk/licensing-refund. Once confirmed, the licence fee will be reimbursed direct into bank accounts.

These changes are accompanied by a new way for businesses to apply for a grant. Both councils now offer a streamlined application form on their websites to make life easier for local business owners. There is one main form and one supplementary form to fill in and the team at the Councils will then calculate which of the 11+ grants a business is eligible for. 

Cllr Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams Council said:  "We are acutely aware that many of our local business people are struggling because they are slipping through the national business grant gaps. There clearly needs to be rules to make sure that public money is spent fairly and the system is not abused. However, looking at the local picture, we can see that many of our local businesses, especially in the retail sector, are suffering financially but are not eligible for help. That is why we have made a few changes to who can receive money and the amount of support available in the South Hams and West Devon.

"We have simplified the process to apply for funding and I urge local businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic to apply now. We desperately want our local businesses to be in as strong a position as possible when things do start to improve."

Cllr Neil Jory, Leader of West Devon Borough Council explains: "The first thing we have done is lower the thresholds of what counts as 'impacted.' Now a business only needs to state a 10% reduction in income or net profit to be eligible to claim help.

"Secondly, we are increasing the level of payments to get more money to those businesses that need it most. Eligible businesses can now access up to £900 more and businesses that were not mandated to close but have experienced lower turnovers can now also access financial support. We know this will be of particular relief for our independent retailers in our towns.

"Thirdly, the Councils have taken the decision to refund all business licences paid over the last year. This step has been made to help businesses who may not have been eligible for other grants.

"Finally, thanks to everyone who has applied for a grant for your patience waiting for your payments. We know your business needs money now and our team has been working seven days a week since November to make that happen. To give you an idea of the mammoth scale of this task, we've had 11 different grants to organise and so far received over 2,000 applications in West Devon alone to check thoroughly to ensure they are valid. Up to Feb, we've processed 90% of applications, making payments worth a total of almost £6M to local businesses." 

Cllr Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams Council added:  "We know some of you have had to wait, and that has been hard in these desperate times. The team is working tirelessly to get the money out to our local businesses in the South Hams as quickly as possible, so thank you for your patience. So far, we've processed 4,000 applications and given out nearly £14million. We hope with even more financial support on offer we'll soon see our local businesses thriving again." 

Businesses are asked to go to the Councils' website to find out more and complete their application.

www.westdevon.gov.uk/local-restriction-support-grants