Covid-19 and the UK’s response to tackling the pandemic have had unprecedented impact on business.
Guidance on social distancing and restrictions on operations have changed consumer behaviour beyond recognition and businesses have struggled to adapt to home working and cope with workforces reduced by illness and the need to care for others.
All businesses, large and small, are having to take serious steps to ensure they can stay afloat, changing operations, furloughing staff and juggling their finances.
The welcomed recent announcement from the Chancellor has given some hope for business owners, advising that eligible businesses, including those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, will not have pay business rates on their properties for the next 12 months and that smaller businesses in these sectors will also receive one off grants of either £10,000 or £25,000 to support them during this unprecedented disruption to trading. The intent to support business is clear – it is the speed of delivery of this support that will make the difference to many.
Local authorities are shouldering the load
Local authorities are having to plough through the important task of distributing these vital business rate grants extremely quickly to make sure those businesses most in need receive help, fast.
Keeping up with this new demand alongside the delivery of other vital services, when local authority resources have been reduced through illness and disruption due to the crisis, is causing a huge strain. It would seem an impossible load for local government to shoulder alone.
We have been partnering a local authority client during this period to take the strain off this new requirement and support local businesses to give them the best chance of surviving.
Supporting our clients and easing the strain
Working alongside a local authority client in London, our experienced team of business rates officers have awarded close to 4,000 business grants to date, totalling £67 million, processing an average of over 400 grants a day.
Within the first week of the chancellor’s announcement, our business rates team were mobilised to work from home to ensure a continuation of service for existing day to day business rate support and commence distribution of business rate grants accurately and fast.
Working closely with the client, a specific plan of action was developed to make sure the approach to distributing grants would serve the most vulnerable customers first.
Here’s how we supported local businesses:
- Our initial priority was to focus on issuing small business rate grants to more vulnerable small business owners.
- We issued the grants in the form of a refund to business rate accounts, paid automatically into business accounts, to avoid owners needing to contact the council.
- Where payment details were missing from accounts, our team contacted business owners to confirm payment details so they could be paid the grant instantly.
- Information integrated with the council’s Interactive voice response service for business rates, directing business owners to specialist help for grant disbursement queries which were all dealt with within one working day.
- Our people strengthened the team to support business as usual enquiries, whilst setting up and operating the new service.
A daily meeting and reporting schedule with our client ensured fast and accurate set up and up-to-date reporting on performance against targets, enabling the council to have a clear view of support for businesses in its jurisdiction.
The team worked to the latest guidance and policy changes from government to advise the client, adapt its operations and expedite support to the business community.
Making the crucial difference to people’s lives
Making sure businesses receive the support they need during these difficult times has not only seen our team of experts going above and beyond to make sure the business grants are disbursed as quickly as possible, but has also given us a huge sense of personal pride that we are playing our part on making a real difference to the many lives and livelihoods across the country at this time.
If you’re a local authority that requires a helping hand in distributing business rate grants, our team of experts are available to support immediately.