Discretionary Grant: Zoom meeting with the Head of Revenue and Benefits at Merton Council
On 10th June London Borough of Merton launched the long-awaited Discretionary Fund. There is a 2-week application window for businesses that meet the published criteria to apply.
Closing date: 5pm on 24th June 2020.
This is not a first past the post application. We invited David Keppler, Head of Revenue and Benefits at Merton Council to join this zoom session so that businesses were able to understand the qualifying criteria, priority groups and what information is required to support their application.
The topics David covered were:
- Policy and guidance from government
- The Discretionary Grant in Merton would be issued in two phases
- Update on what they have found so far
- What information and evidence that they require from businesses and organisations
What to look out for
- Merton Council have received £1.3m from the Government in funding for the Discretionary Grant.
- The Government issued guidance in May with the aim of helping certain small businesses not eligible under the other grant schemes, which have relatively high, ongoing, fixed property-related costs, and which can demonstrate that they have suffered a significant fall in income due to the COVID-19 crisis
- There are some other exclusions that mean that businesses can’t apply
- In Merton there are four priority areas: shared premises, market traders, B&B and charities. These businesses and organisations will fall into Phase One.
- The Scheme opened last Wednesday, 10 June (5 days at the time of the meeting). To date Merton Council had received 91 applications. They are not operating on a first come first served basis.
- They are finding that a number of the applications don’t meet the criteria ie that they are rate payers (except for charities). These businesses should look out for Phase Two if it comes out.
- About half the applications made so far have been rejected for various reasons.
- Applicants need to be able to demonstrate loss of income, which new businesses can’t do.
- Good news: if the current trend continues for applications received, it looks like it will go to Phase Two in Merton; obviously depending on the number of applications received by 24 June.
- Phase Two: prioritise will be going to those who are addressing closing equality gap between east and west of the borough; ie assisting vulnerable in the borough, where a business is accessible to everybody in the borough, employing those in the east of the borough, location of the business.
- They would encourage applications from everyone that meets the criteria in Phase Two.
- The level of grants that are being paid out. The online policy details the level of grant issued, and for shared premises this would be determined by demonstrating loss of income, and fixed property costs. Full details are listed on the policy. There is some flexibility so that they can assist more businesses.
- There is a panel to make decisions – made up of three officers from Merton Council; Diana Sterck our CEO and Simon Shimmens, CEO at MVSC; with the aim of getting first payments out by end of June.
Businesses should get applications in now. Closing date is Wednesday 24 June at 5pm.
The Revenue and Benefits team will then have an overview on the number of applications received, the number that are eligible, the amount of money likely to be awarded, and will hopefully be able to make the decision whether Phase Two can be opened. TSo that process can be made sooner rather than later. If you don’t apply for Phase One you can still apply for Phase Two.
You will need to provide information and evidence to support your claim including:
- Proof of property costs (ie tenancy, lease, rental agreement – proof of occupancy in place)
- Bank statement that payment has been made to the landlord
- Evidence to demonstrate a substantial loss in income as a result of the current situation ie that income has been reduced – easiest one is something like a cash flow forecast, demonstrates monthly position over the last 6-12 months. Don’t just send in bank statements for April and May as there is no comparison.
- Profit and Loss accounts or audited accounts.