Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): strategic framework business fund - sector top-up funds for hospitality, retail and leisure - information for local authorities

Information on administering grants for local authorities responsible for delivering funding to eligible businesses.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): strategic framework business fund - sector top-up funds for hospitality, retail and leisure - information for local authorities

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 announced on 21st December 2020 (hospitality), 27th December 2020 (retail) and 11th January 2021 (leisure) a new package of support to help businesses in these sectors closed or impacted by protective measures.  

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 will the grants 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. 

Local authorities should align this additional grant process with the existing criteria and payment process for the Strategic Framework Business Fund (SFBF).  Existing SFBF claims or new applications should offer the gateway for payments, although exceptionally, and with prior agreement with the Scottish Government some local authorities may choose to require businesses to complete a separate application form (with an application deadline of 5th February 2021).  While this potential flexibility has been agreed in principle to recognise local circumstances, there is obvious merit for businesses in having to apply once (and that would seem to be easier to administer too).  It is expected that this may be most applicable in those areas that have previously been on lower levels and only moved to Level 4 on 26th December 2020.  Details of the relevant approach must be provided on individual council websites (by no later than 20 January 2020 and applications should be filled in on-line and submitted through the council’s website (if available) or returned to councils by e-mail only.  This information will also be signposted via a consolidated portal on Find Business Support.  

Payments will be made where possible into the business bank account of the business, and personal accounts where a business bank account is not held by 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 on 27th January confirming, by sector and RV class: the number of of eligible businesses; awards made and any refused (with rationale); and the number of and amounts of actual payments made.  A final reconciliation return will be commissioned for delivery in February.