Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): strategic framework business fund - information for local authorities

Information on administering grants for local authorities responsible for delivering funding to eligible businesses. These grants form a new package of support to help businesses closed or impacted by coronavirus protective measures.

Contents
Coronavirus (COVID-19): strategic framework business fund - information for local authorities
Introduction

Introduction

Information in this document is provided by the Scottish Government, in conjunction with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), to Scottish local authorities.

The Scottish Government on 23 October 2020 announced, alongside the introduction of a levels approach, a new package of support to help businesses closed or impacted by protective measures. The levels and support which would be provided to businesses was set out in Coronavirus (Covid-19) Scotland’s Strategic Framework.

This grant funding will be made available through powers conferred by Sections 126 and 127 of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996.

This document has no statutory basis, is offered without prejudice to relevant legislation and legal decisions, and does not constitute legal advice. 

The document aims to inform a mutual understanding amongst local authority practitioners engaged in the administration of these grants. It includes specific information relating to the grants.

Given their responsibilities for managing public funds, it is up to local authorities to ensure that procedures for administering the grants are suitably robust, including due diligence to mitigate fraud and for audit purposes.

Local authorities are expected to seek recovery of overpayments including pressing criminal charges where necessary, if fraudulent claims are found. Councils will not be held financially liable for overpayments associated with fraud and error. The exception to this would be circumstances where a council is found to be materially not compliant with the relevant UK Government fraud control guidance.

Ratepayers are eligible for a one-off grant regardless of any arrears. Local authorities have some discretion to withhold grant awards in very exceptional circumstances where the business has significant outstanding arrears, which have been subject to a court decision. 

How the grants will be provided

Local authorities will administer the grants and will be responsible for delivering the funding to eligible businesses. The Scottish Government will fund local authorities to make these payments, providing information on funding levels and periods each time levels change.

These grants require an application. Application forms are available on individual council websites and should be filled in on-line and submitted through the council’s website (if available) or returned to councils by e-mail only. 

Where restrictions are extended beyond a four week period and the local authority remains at the same level of protection, a business does not need to re-apply and a grant will be automatically awarded for the next four week period.

Where restrictions are extended beyond a four week period and the Level of protection in which the business is based changes, a business does not need to re-apply and grant entitlement will be reviewed and automatically awarded. This will initiate a new four week cycle of payments for businesses that are newly eligible at a different level; businesses already eligible and receiving payments should be moved to the new four-weekly cycle through an adjusted payment taking account of both timeframes and the appropriate funds and rates. Local authorities should inform businesses of the change of circumstances and grant which they will be eligible for as a result of the change.

When restrictions end or reduce, any transitional or final payment in arrears will be adjusted to reflect the duration of the restrictions to the nearest week, where possible.

Applications can be made up to 31 March 2021.

Councils will make payments no later than four week in arrears, subject to receiving a fully completed application form and any relevant supporting information required, and where the eligibility criteria have all been met.

Payments will only be made into the business bank account of the business. 

Local authorities are expected to offer an appeals process for applicants.

Due diligence, monitoring and reporting requirements

Local authorities are required to be assured of the validity of an application and any supporting information requested in determining eligibility for a grant. The Scottish Government will require local authorities to supply agreed management information each week which will include the number of grants applied for, awards made and refused (with rationale) and the number of actual payments made, by fund and by period.