Councils have yet to pay most of the £1.5bn Covid support package launched last year to help companies with business rates.
The Covid-19 Additional Relief Fund (Carf) was announced in March 2021 by Chancellor Rishi Sunak. It offered businesses in sectors that had suffered the most during the Covid pandemic but were excluded from the £16bn rates holiday for hospitality, leisure and retail companies.
However, out of 309 councils, only 113 have adopted local schemes and of those 100 have paid out a year after the fund was established, meaning the majority have “yet to establish any kind of scheme” according to property consultants Gerald Eve.
Jerry Schurder, business rates policy lead at Gerald Eve, said: “The Government claimed CARF was the fastest and fairest way of getting support to businesses that need it the most, but the past year has shown this to be complete hyperbole. In fact, the opposite is true.”
Schurder places much of the blame on the Government, which, he said, issued general guidance to councils on the types of businesses they should support but required each authority to devise its own relief scheme.
“It’s a travesty that funds meant to support businesses through the pandemic have, for the most part, never actually reached them,” Schurder added.
“Additionally, Gerald Eve’s research found that where local authorities have put schemes in place, a mix of onerous documentation requirements, a lack of clarity on what businesses will receive and when, arbitrary caps on the relief provided, and paltry sums potentially available are proving a real deterrent to businesses.
“With its £1.5bn fund the Government has made the right noises about supporting businesses. But the reality is many companies which struggled through the pandemic have been unable to gain access to these funds when they needed them the most.”