Posted: Tue 9th Aug 2022
Only half of councils in England have started to provide payments to businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic through a scheme launched 18 months ago.
The £1.5bn COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund (CARF) was announced by the government in March 2021 for businesses in England not eligible for the business rates holiday provided to the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.
The scheme is aimed at businesses such as manufacturing or wholesale firms, transport companies and office-based professional services.
Property consultancy Gerald Eve sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to 309 English councils. Of the 207 that responded during June and July, 119 said they had started to make payments through CARF.
A total £632m of the £1.5bn funding has been allocated to the responding councils, but at the time of the FOI request, they had paid out just £329m.
The research said that if the results were extended to the remaining councils that didn't respond, a maximum of £820m out of the total £1.5bn in business rates relief would have been paid out.
The deadline for businesses applying to the scheme is 30 September.
Jerry Schurder, business rates policy lead at Gerald Eve, said:
"This fund was supposed to help businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic, but which were denied other business rates support.
"The government claimed CARF was the fastest and fairest way of getting support to businesses that need it the most, but the past 17 months has shown this to be complete hyperbole. In fact, the opposite is true.
"Sadly, it's a case of too little, too late for the hundreds of thousands of firms that were retrospectively denied their rights to appeal their rates bills but have yet to receive a penny from the local authorities.
"To help local authorities catch up, we would urge the government to extend the 30 September deadline by six months to ensure the £700m still waiting to be allocated gets to those who need it."
A government spokesperson said:
"The government has provided an unprecedented package of support for businesses, including a total of £26bn in grants to those affected by restrictions put in place to tackle COVID-19.
"Councils are responsible for allocating funding and targeting it to businesses, based on local circumstances."
How to access the COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund
Businesses can receive up to a 100% refund on the rates they paid in the 2021/22 tax year if they have been affected by the pandemic but were ineligible for other business rates relief schemes.
To be eligible, businesses must:
have been adversely affected by COVID-19
have been in occupation of their premises and trading or providing a service during the period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2022
be liable to pay business rates between the period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2022
CARF can not be awarded if the business received or was eligible for:
the Extended Retail Discount (covering retail, hospitality and leisure)
the Nursery Discount
the Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme
The relief is not automatically paid and businesses need to apply via their local authority. To check if the relief is available in your area, find your council website here.