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£1bn Government business grant scheme announced to help hospitality and leisure industry as Omicron variant hampers industry

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A new £1bn business grants scheme has been unveiled by the Government – although no details on how the money will be allocated have yet been given.

The funding is aimed at supporting businesses that have been impacted by the Omicron variant, the ongoing problems of staff absences due to Covid, and lower consumer demand.

West Berkshire Council said it was now waiting for further information on how the scheme will work, the eligibility criteria, application process and funding allocations from Government.

Credit: Newbury BID.
Credit: Newbury BID.

“Once these have been provided, we will start the process to distribute these grants as soon as possible and help support those local businesses who are eligible under the scheme,” a spokesperson said.

The scheme guidance indicates that those businesses supported, which includes hospitality and leisure premises, will benefit from targeted grant support.

Those eligible businesses with a rateable value under £15,000 will be entitled to £2,700; a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 will receive £4,000; and those with a rateable value over £51,000 will receive £6,000.

There will also be some additional funding to boost the Additional Restriction Grant (ARG) scheme, which allows the council to allocate discretionary funding to businesses most in need.

The Government will also cover the cost of statutory sick pay for Covid-related absences for small and medium-sized employers across the UK.

Councillor Ross Mackinnon, executive member for finance and economic development at West Berkshire Council (Con, Bradfield), said: “This further support for businesses is very welcome at what we know is a difficult time for those businesses operating in hospitality and leisure.

“The council has worked tirelessly to distribute previous grants as quickly as possible with funds being released rapidly to help support local businesses. As soon as we have final detail and guidance on the scheme we will get started on delivering the grants and assisting businesses across the district.”

Earlier this week, the Newbury Business Improvement District (BID), which promotes commerce in the town centre, signed an open letter urging the UK Government to provide financial and practical assistance to the high street.

The letter, issued on December 19, was signed by organisations which claim to represent 100,000 retail, hospitality and leisure businesses nationwide.

Among other measures, it called for an extension on the existing VAT reduction for customers, as well as business grants and rates relief.

Newbury BID chief executive Melissa Hughes said: "Businesses have worked tirelessly since reopening to protect their staff and customers with sensible safety measures.

"It would be yet another devastating blow to the industry if these businesses were forced to close their doors yet again, which is a distinct possibility whilst the current restrictions and ‘working from home’ guidance are in place."

More information can be found on the government website at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/1-billion-in-support-for-businesses-most-impacted-by-omicron-across-the-uk

West Berkshire Council is also currently running the ARG Challenge Fund for businesses in West Berkshire to support green growth and recovery.

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