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Coronavirus: Updates and information

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Coronavirus: Discretionary grant fund

Updated 1 September 2020

The Discretionary Grant Fund has now closed to applications. Applications received before the 28 August deadline are being assessed against the eligibility criteria and applicants will be notified soon

About the local grant scheme

Grants of up to £10,000 each were available to small businesses, charities and not-for-profit organisations in Cambridge which struggled to survive during the lockdown and have missed out of previous Covid-19 funding.

The local scheme was launched on 10 June 2020, with £1.1 million of government funding available in grants. After two months, the Council opened up the grants to a wider range of applicants for the final phase of the scheme until it closed on 28 August.

In its final phase, the local scheme was for:

  • small businesses paying business rates in Cambridge (with a rateable value greater than £15,000 but below £51,000) in the cultural and creative or technology sectors or in medical services or language schools;
  • any small business not paying business rates but renting shared/serviced premises in Cambridge (with an annual rent below £51,000); and
  • charities and not-for-profit organisations with either an annual rent or rateable value below £51,000 in Cambridge (previously, the limit was £15,000).

In the first two months, eligibility for the scheme had included applications from registered bed & breakfasts in Cambridge and from licensed market and street traders and in Cambridge.

We offered one payment for one property per eligible applicant. Applicants with multiple premises in Cambridge only qualified for one grant.

Our revised Discretionary Grant Fund policy [PDF, 0.2MB] sets out the grants available and who could and couldn't apply (pages 3 to 5), the assessment process (page 6), the eligibility criteria (page 7) and the evidence required (pages 8 and 9).

Grants for small businesses

Small businesses in shared or serviced premises

Who was it for? For any small businesses not paying business rates themselves but physically located in shared or serviced premises in Cambridge registered for business rates.

Amongst other exclusions (see page 5 of the revised policy), this category was not for small businesses run from a domestic property.

Grants varied according to the amount of annual rent being paid for the shared or serviced space.

Annual rental payments for shared or service premises Available grant
Below £5,000 £2,500
£5,000 or more but below £10,000 £5,000
£10,000 or more but below £51,000 £10,000

Small businesses paying business rates and trading in the cultural and creative or technology sectors or in medical services or language schools

Who was it for? For small businesses paying business rates for a property in Cambridge with a rateable value of £15,000 or more but below £51,000 and trading in one of these business sectors. Here are some examples of the types of businesses included in each sector.

  • The cultural and creative sectors included: advertising and marketing; architecture; artistic creation; arts facilities; product, graphic and fashion design; film, TV, video, radio and photography; IT, software and computer services; publishing; museums and galleries; music, performing and visual arts.
  • The technology sector included: agricultural technology; biotechnology, life sciences, environmental technology; information technology; marine technology and precision manufacturing.
  • Medical services included dentists, osteopaths, chiropractors and vets.
  • Language schools included English language schools for international students.
  • Business rated properties included: offices, warehouses and other physical storage buildings, factories, workshops, clinics and surgeries.

Among other exclusions (see page 5 of the revised policy), please note that this category was not for small businesses run from a domestic property.

Grants of £10,000 were available for business who came within this applicant category.

Grants for charities and not-for-profit organisations

Charities or not-for-profit organisations in shared or serviced premises

Who was it for? For any charity or not-for-profit organisations not paying business rates themselves but physically located in shared or serviced premises in Cambridge that are registered for business rates.

Grants varied according to the amount of annual rent being paid for the shared/serviced space.

Annual rental payments for shared or service premises Available grant
Below £5,000 £2,500
£5,000 or more but below £10,000 £5,000
£10,000 or more but below £51,000 £10,000

Charities or not-for-profit organisations paying business rates for a property in Cambridge

Who was it for? For any charity and not-for-profit organisations paying business rates to the city council (classed as small businesses for ratings purposes).

Grants varied according to the rateable value of the property.

Annual rental payments for shared or service premises Available grant
Below £5,000 £2,500
£5,000 or more but below £10,000 £5,000
£10,000 or more but below £51,000 £10,000

Eligibility criteria

Applications were welcomed from small businesses in shared/serviced premises, charities and not-for-profit organisations in Cambridge who met all the relevant eligibility criteria.

Criteria applying to all applicant categories

  1. Those eligible for other current grant schemes relating to Covid-19, such as Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants or the Small Business Grants, were ineligible for this discretionary grant funding. But those eligible for or in receipt of funding from the Job Retention Scheme or the Self-Employed Support Scheme were eligible for discretionary grants.
  2. Was trading or operating on 11 March 2020 and intended to continue to trade or operate. Businesses that were insolvent, in administration or subject to a striking-off notice were not eligible.
  3. Must have had a rateable value or annual rent costs or annual mortgage payments of less than £51,000.
  4. Had an annual turnover of no more than £10.2 million.
  5. Had a balance sheet total of no more than £5.1 million.
  6. Had fewer than 50 employees.
  7. Had relatively high on-going fixed property-related costs (as well as rental or mortgage costs, this could include storage, pitch rental or mooring fees).
  8. Was able to demonstrate a significant fall in income as a result of the Covid-19 shutdown. (For charities and not-for-profit organisations, this could include a significant reduction in fund-raising opportunities).

Criteria applying to particular applicant categories

  1. Tenants in shared or serviced premises (whether small businesses or charities or not-for-profit organisations) did not have their own business rate account with Cambridge City Council
  2. A business must not have been a wholly owned subsidiary of another company or part of a recognised group of companies in common ownership that would not qualify as a small business.

How to apply

Unless directly affected by the changes in this policy, previous unsuccessful applicants were asked not to apply again. Where we had previously advised small businesses and others that they did not qualify for a grant, but this had changed as a result of the revised policy, we contacted them about the next steps.

Applicants were asked to complete our online application form and upload the evidence required. They were asked to make sure they had all the relevant evidence needed ready to upload before submitting their application.

It was made clear that any incomplete applications would be rejected: these applicants would need to reapply with the necessary information and join the end of the queue.

We asked applicants to supply the information needed to substantiate their grant applications in three ways.

Self-certification

  • ‘Yes/No’ answers on the application form to confirm compliance with criteria A to F and J.
  • Written statements in the application form, detailing on-going fixed property related costs and why and how applicants had suffered a significant fall in income as a result of the Covid-19 shutdown (related to criteria G and H).

Providing relevant registration and account reference numbers

This has enabled us to:

  • access relevant account information held by the city council itself (such as rateable values) in relation to criterion I; and
  • verify self-certification answers with other sources of information (such as Companies House, Charity Commission and VAT registration).

Electronic copies of relevant documents

Applicants were asked to submit electronically (as scanned copies) the following documents as part of their online applications.

  • Business or charity bank account statement for the period covering 11 March 2020, including details of the account name, sort code and bank account number. Important: The account name needed to match the name of the business/organisation applying.
  • Proof of the business or organisation’s operation (e.g., most recent statement of accounts OR a self-assessment tax return [as appropriate] OR Articles of Association OR Governing Document).
  • Proof of agreements relating to fixed costs (e.g., tenancy agreement or mortgage agreement relating to the business or organisation applying).

For more details, see our revised Discretionary Grant Fund policy [PDF, 0.2MB].

How we have assessed applications

Applications have been be assessed against the relevant eligibility criteria. We made clear that only those meeting all these criteria would be successful.

Complete applications were assessed on a ‘first come, first served’ basis within 7 to 10 working days of receipt (including processing of payments in the case of successful applications).

We made clear that any applications that were incomplete or had not yet completed the assessment stage or the review stage by the time that the government funding was no longer available would not qualify for a grant.

Further information about the assessment process, including the Council’s approach to preventing fraud can be found on page 6 of our revised Discretionary Grant Fund policy [PDF, 0.2MB].

If contacting us by email, please quote the grant application number, if you have one.