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Deadline looms for Bedfordshire firms to apply for new support grant

BUSINESS in Bedford have until June 19 to apply for a grant of up to £10,000 from the government’s discretionary business support grant scheme.

The scheme is designed to support businesses affected by the pandemic who have fixed costs for premises but don’t qualify for the existing support grants scheme because they don’t pay business rates.

Businesses likely to be eligible for support under the scheme include those in shared premises such as incubator units, stalls or units in arcades or centres, and shared office accommodation, along with regular market traders, small bed and breakfasts and small charities and not-for-profit organisations.

The government has allocated £1.6 million to Bedford Borough Council for the discretionary grants scheme. The council has published local guidelines consistent with the government’s criteria for the scheme, with support to be prioritised for businesses that:

  • Have experienced a significant reduction in income due specifically to the coronavirus measures;
  • Have fixed costs in respect of business premises located within Bedford Borough;
  • Have rent or mortgage costs of less than £51,000 per year;
  • Are small or micro businesses or are charities or similar not-for-profit.

The full guidelines, along with the online application form, are available on the council’s website at www.bedford.gov.uk/covid19business

Bedford Borough Council has already made awards totalling over £25 million through the government’s existing business support grants scheme.

With limited funding available for the discretionary scheme, the council wants to ensure that all eligible businesses are able to receive some support. It has set a deadline of June 19 for applications, after which it will review all applications against the criteria and ensure the available funds are shared among eligible businesses, according to need. 

Awards are capped at a maximum of £10,000.

Dave Hodgson, Mayor of Bedford

Bedford Mayor Dave Hodgson said: “We know that the number of businesses suffering in the current circumstances extends well beyond those covered by the previously-announced government support schemes.

“That is why we are working to ensure that these new, limited funds from government are distributed to all eligible businesses on the basis of fairness and need.

“We have made the guidelines and application process as straightforward as possible. We are asking businesses to look at the guidelines and make their application by June 19 so we can assess all cases together and get these much-needed funds out to firms as quickly and fairly as possible.”

‘This will help many businesses whose rates are included in their rent’

CENTRAL Bedfordshire Council is also appealing for businesses to apply for a share of the new Discretionary Grant Scheme.

The new, government-funded scheme, is aimed to help those small businesses badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, which were not covered by the Business Support Grant scheme or other financial support.

Grants are available of up to £10,000 can be made. But if the value of eligible applications is more than the money available, they will be reduced pro rata.

Cllr Richard Wenham, the council’s deputy leader and executive member for corporate resources, said: “This is a fixed pot of money and we want to make sure as many eligible businesses as possible benefit.

“We will be contacting businesses we know are eligible but there will be many, as they pay business rates as part of their rent, that are not as visible to us. So we urge owners to visit our website and apply as soon as possible as there is only a two-week window for applications.

Six types of business are priorities under the scheme, and each must meet four criteria set by the government. Find out more about the scheme

The six categories of business are: 

  • Those in shared spaces without an individual business rates assessment;
  • Regular market traders;
  • Bed and breakfasts that pay council tax instead of business rates;
  • Charity properties;
  • Suppliers to the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors;
  • Children’s nurseries.

Cllr Wenham said: “The most important is that a business must have relatively high fixed costs for premises in terms of rent or commercial mortgage. But unlike the Business Support Grants, applicants will not have to show they pay business rates directly to us. This will help the many businesses whose rates are included in their rent.”