Loophole means small businesses risk losing out on government grants

Covid-19 News | Economy & Politics | Property & Construction | South West

Business rates experts at Colliers International are calling on the Treasury to take action on a loophole that will make it difficult for small companies in serviced offices to access Government grants.

The issue is expected to affect a considerable number of businesses in Bristol city centre, which last year saw more serviced office deals than any other Big Six regional office market.

Colliers estimates that around 10,000 small business owners in serviced offices could miss out on £100m of vital support because they have no established individual rating assessment, and as a result cannot currently claim grants.

This is because the support that the Government announced to help businesses with their running costs uses the business rates system as a model upon which to allocate grants. A cash grant of £10,000 was made immediately available for small businesses with a Rateable Value (RV) of £15,000 and under, whatever sector they might be in. Colliers believe that about five per cent of the small business market will be unable to claim this relief.

John Webber, head of Business Rates at Colliers International, which handles about 90% of businesses in the serviced operating sector, explained: “In deciding to allocate grants based on RVs, the government was aware that about five per cent of smaller businesses, who are in serviced offices might lose out, but the decisions had to be made quickly and support announced as soon as possible. There is no criticism of the government; it acted with speed, but it must acknowledge that this is a big problem.

“Now that we are seeing some of the fall out for these small businesses located in co-working and serviced office space, we request the Treasury to show some flexibility in its approach to this issue.

“We need the Treasury to inform the Billing Authority who are handling the grants that such small businesses are an exceptional case and allow us to illustrate who should be eligible for the grants, on a building by building basis. We believe we would be able to do this quickly, enabling such companies to claim their grants they so desperately need.”

He continued, “These are torrid times for businesses, many of whom are struggling to stay solvent, and are desperately in need of the grants on offer. We have already started to petition the Treasury and we hope that the spirit of support and common sense that the government has already shown to business, is extended here. We at Colliers will be doing everything in our power to make sure both our clients and their tenants are looked after, and this issue is resolved as quickly as possible.”

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