A petition signed by 11,900 UK small businesses angry at missing out on £1bn worth of Covid-19 Small Business Grants will now be investigated by the Government.
“Put simply, if you don’t have a business rates account for your business with your local authority you get nothing. It’s a very unfair situation”, explains office expert Jonathan Ratcliffe from Offices.co.uk
The loophole means that if you occupy serviced office space where rates are included (bundled into the serviced package) you are not eligible for the Covid-19 support.
“Small businesses across the UK are absolutely fuming; and at no fault of their own, because their choice of office type dictated whether they got a £10,000 cash grant or not”, explains Ratcliffe
Grants are awarded based on ‘Rateable Value’ (RV) – a quick fix in unprecedented times which means that if your office had a RV of less than £15,000 you got a £10,000 cash grant to see you through.
“We are in no way criticising Chancellor Rishi Sunak, absolutely not, he’s had to make some complex decisions in a very short time period, it’s just that small businesses in shared workspaces have slipped through a loophole and missed this cash lifeline through no fault of their own”, adds Jonathan Ratcliffe.
The Petition is asking the Government to urgently investigate the loophole which is unfairly penalising small businesses typically made up of 1-10 employees in small serviced office spaces across the UK.
The amount of grant money being missed out on is staggering:
Central London – £185m
West London – £150m
South West London – £74m
North London – £47.5m
East London – £51.5m
South East London – £59m
North West London – £43.5m
Manchester – £94m
Birmingham – £61m
Bristol – £57m
Leeds – £54m
Nottingham – £40m
Liverpool – £35m
Sheffield – £30m
Newcastle – £30m
Cambridge – £21m
Cardiff – £20.5m
Northampton – £18.5m
Brighton – £18m
Milton Keynes – £18m
Oxford – £16.5m
Piranavan Vimalraj, co-founder of ONE Global Mobility based in a Regus office near Reading says: “We are a business consulting company with a focus on helping UK businesses expand globally. With a strong sales pipeline, we entered 2020 with high hopes. As you can expect, Covid-19 lockdown has put a halt to almost 100% of those opportunities. Like many young businesses with a limited runway, the impact on sales pipeline is catching up with us very quickly. We are devastated to hear that purely because we are based in a serviced office, we do not qualify for the Small Business Grant Fund. From our perspective, we pay a monthly bundle fee that includes rates, and so, we are no different to those businesses that are within the business rates system. The £10,000 would have genuinely been a lifeline for our business. As it stands, that lifeline has been dangled in front of us and then taken away due to what can only be described as a gap in the policy.”
And he is not alone.
“Using small business rates relief as a passport to these grants is merely giving an arbitrary advantage to some small businesses over others” says John Carr of Carrs Solicitors Limited based in Bolton
Others are being tangled in red tape, forced to prove their eligibility by submitting seven pieces of information such as lease agreements, utility bills and office insurance documents. One such tenant is Jonathan Sherlock, Director of Tidal Wave Consulting Ltd based in WeWork Dalton Place, Manchester, who is pursuing such a claim direct with Manchester City Council. “I’ve lost a lot of confidence in what’s been offered/promised as there’s always a condition or a clause will keep a lot of SMEs getting over the line with these funds/grants/loans”, Sherlock adds.
Jenny Pawsey who sub-lets an office in Oxford adds: “The grant of £10,000 would enable us to get back on our feet when the world is starting up again. Our business is a very viable one, and we’ve been going since 1964, but like everyone our cash flow is suffering”.
Missed SBRR Grant Money has been calculated by taking number of serviced offices in a City, multiplying this by an average 50 offices occupied by SMEs per centre and multiplying this by £10,000 each.
“We’ve estimated that the support missed is over £1bn and it’s all small businesses who are the big employers of the future and they need helping. If we can push this to 100,000 signatures, it will be discussed in Parliament. I just hope this happens soon as many small businesses are being pushed to the wall this month”, concluded Jonathan Ratcliffe from Offices.co.uk
Have you been affected by this? Here’s the link to the petition to add your support. Business Matters will keep you updated on how this unfolds. https://www.offices.co.uk/sbrr-petition/