Sat. Nov 28th, 2020

Isle of Wight Observer News

The Island's Free Newspaper

Council issues update on business rates grants

4 min read
Business rates grants update

The Isle of Wight Council has processed government grant payments totalling £29.9 million to 2,550 qualifying Island businesses, as of today (Monday).

The council is urging any eligible businesses that haven’t yet provided their up to details for payment via a special online form to do so. The form can be found here.

It is estimated the council will complete direct payments to all those it has up to date bank details for over the next few days. These include those who the council already had up to date bank details for at 11 March, and those who have completed all the required information and submitted the online form.

The council has written to all other business ratepayers it believes may be eligible, and is also trying to contact them where it has email and phone details.

Council leader, Councillor Dave Stewart, said: “There has been a huge effort made by our staff to make these payments as swiftly as possible for all those we have direct payment details for, and to reply to those who have sent us questions about their eligibility or payments.

“However, there is still a significant number to process and we are doing our utmost to reach them to ensure that no business which qualifies for a grant misses out. The key to this is ensuring we have up to date and verifiable details so we can make direct payment.”

It is estimated there may be 5,081 businesses eligible for the grants on the Island. Those who the council still does not have up to date direct payment details for and who have not yet completed the form, may include: some of those who pay their business rates by online banking/cheque; those who may have a recent change of business circumstances (ownership, address) that needs to be verified; those who have made errors in the submitted online form; those where other areas of clarification/verification is needed.

Additionally it is estimated there are 1,043 properties of holiday accommodation which may qualify, such as chalets, of which hundreds have not yet provided direct payment details. The council is trying to reach these.

Normally many of these details are verified at this time of year by the council when it issues annual rates bills in March, so it can bring its records fully up to date. While rates bills (for 2020/21) were issued as usual in March, the government scheme, which has also required confirmation of many of these details, has come almost at the same time.

There are three categories for government business rates grant support:

  • Small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief.
  • Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value of more than £15,000 and less than £51,000.
  • Grant funding of £10,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value of £15,000 and under.

Currently all payments are being made by BACs, which typically take three working days to show in an account.

Councillor Stewart said: “As part of the payment process we are also obliged to ensure we minimise the risk of making payments to those who don’t qualify, or instances where there may be fraud. So as well as needing up to date payment and contact details, in many cases further verification may be needed.

“We have received more than 1,100 enquiries so far to the email address for those who have queries about their eligibility or payments, and have processed these as swiftly as we can. The email address for these queries is ecdev@iow.gov.uk .”

Councillor Stewart added: “We are also very aware there are some Island businesses which have fallen just outside the eligibility criteria for grants and in some cases where they don’t quite qualify for any of the main areas of government support.

“In relation to this we are still awaiting government direction on whether they will require the council to return any surplus of the overall £62.8 million received after we believe all payments have been made.

“We would very much like to utilise any surplus, if there is any, to consider discretionary payments to those businesses which may have just narrowly missed out, but we are entirely in the hands of what the government chooses to direct at this stage.

“It is probably the case that many other councils up and down the country will experience similar cases and would wish to do the same, so it may be that representations will be made to the government in relation to this issue.

“As the intention of these grants is to help small, rural, retail, leisure and hospitality businesses likely to be affected by Covid-19 and at an incredibly challenging time, we would very much hope that the government would be sympathetic to those cases who may just be on the wrong side of the qualifying criteria.”