Issue details

Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) Omicron business grant - January 2021

In response to the various national lockdowns commencing in March 2020, the government has provided an economic support package that included financial support to businesses and charities in the form of business grants to be administered by local authorities.

The business grant support has come in two forms:

• Support for businesses and charities on the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) ratings list;

• ARG support for businesses and charities not on the VOA ratings list, used to address local priorities.
The council has previously received £7.360m of ARG from the government. Of this amount a total of £304,000 remains as of 7 January 2022.
On 21 December 2021, Government announced the introduction of a further top up of ARG funds to be awarded to Local Authorities in response to the Omicron variant of COVID19. This top up funding totals £102 million which will be allocated to Local Authorities in England from 30 December 2021. The council has received an award of £440,000 rom this fund.

The amount of ARG funding available to support Herefordshire businesses and charities will be £740,000. This decision approves the acceptance and spend of this funding awarded to the council by government from the third top up of ARG funding.

The government issued guidance states that Local Authorities should continue to issue grants at their discretion, based on local economic needs, but have provided within the guidance a suggested list of sectors to be prioritised for support.

The government guidance on the ARG scheme states that unlike previous ARG funding this top up funding cannot be used by Local Authorities for wider business support activities.

All ARG funding is required to be allocated by the end of March 2022. It is intended that all of the council’s remaining ARG funding as well the ‘top up’ amount will be utilised through the following scheme.
Proposed Approach to the ARG Omicron business grant
Given the urgent need to support businesses and charities affected by the response to the Omicron variant of COVID19, the council is developing and implementing an ARG Omicron business grant as quickly as possible.

It is proposed to open an ARG grant scheme to businesses and charities in those sectors most impacted by the restrictions introduced in December 2021. In line with the government guidance for the ARG support, and local priorities, these sectors are:

a. Hospitality and supply chain
b. Accommodation and supply chain,
c. Leisure and supply chain,
d. Personal care
e. the travel and tourism sector, including group travel, travel agents and tour operators,
f. coach operators,
g. wedding industries and supply chain,
h. nightclubs,
i. theatres,
j. events industries,
k. wholesalers,
l. English language schools,
m. breweries,
n. freelance and mobile businesses
o. gyms
As with previous ARG schemes, and in accordance with the government guidance requirements, businesses and charities will need to complete an application process. This will be an online based process accessible from the council website. Officers will provide guidance and definitions to accompany the application process.

The government is providing support to rateable businesses within the Hospitality and Leisure sectors via the Omicron Hospitality and
Leisure Grant. Rateable businesses in the sectors listed above which are ineligible for the Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant will be able to receive support via the ARG Omicron grant.

The scale of award made to businesses and charities will vary depending on employee numbers, the table below demonstrates the suggested award levels:

FTE Count (min stated) Award
0.5 – 1 £500
1.1 – 2 £1,000
2.1 – 3 £1,500
3.1 – 4 £2,000
4.1 – 5 £2,500
5+ £3,000

The council reserve the right to alter the above bandings to reflect any change in circumstances. All ARG funding allocated to the council will be utilised through the grant scheme prior to the end of March 2022 deadline. Delegation is given to the Head of Economy and/or the Economic Development Manager to amend the banding.

The Head of Economy and the Economic Development Manager are authorised to finalise the specific grant criteria and application process and are authorised to approve grant awards to businesses and charities following satisfactory assessment of the applications received (up to a value of £10,000 per business/charity).

The eligibility criteria for applicants broadly matches the previous ARG criteria and includes:
1. Must be a business or a registered charity;
2. Must employ someone for at least 15 hours per week within/from Herefordshire (charities can include volunteer time) and this can include the business owner(s) or director(s);
3. Either has a business rating or can demonstrate that the business or charity trades most weeks of the year from/within Herefordshire.

Unlike previous ARG schemes government guidance states there is no starting date from which businesses must have been trading or charities established in order to qualify for grant funding

To comply with the government’s ARG criteria, proof of trading checks will be required, and the council will need to ensure it holds the following information for each business:
a) Name of business/charity
b) Business trading address/ charity registered address including postcode
c) Unique identifier
d) High level SIC Code
e) Nature of business/charity
f) Date business/charity established
g) Number of employees
h) Business rate account number (if applicable)
i) Cumulative total of previous funding received under all COVID-19 grants schemes

Decision type: Non-key

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Notice of proposed decision first published: 07/01/2022

Decision due: 7 January 2022 by Corporate Director – Economy & Environment

Contact: Neil Taylor, Interim director of economy and place Email: Tel: 01432 260921.