The Leader of Medway Council has used Urgency Powers to ensure immediate work is carried out to further support residents and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Government has set out its latest financial packages to support residents and businesses most in need of help with council tax and business rates. Since the announcements, Medway Council has been working hard to identify those eligible of the financial support and implement the financial changes.
As part of the Urgency Powers, the Chief Finance Officer, in consultation with the Leader and the Portfolio Holder for Business Management, has been granted delegated authority to implement the following measures. Decisions, such as this, would usually be taken to a Cabinet meeting for portfolio holders to discuss and decide on. However, to ensure that Medway is responding quickly to support those most in need of financial support during the pandemic, this change has been approved.
Supporting businesses and residents
Cllr Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council, said: “I am pleased the government has put measures in place to enable us to provide additional financial support to the Medway residents and businesses who need extra help during the pandemic. We recognise the importance of quickly getting these national measures in place locally and I have used Urgency Powers to allow this work to be immediately carried out. We will continue to do all we can to support Medway’s economy during this difficult time.”
Council tax reduction scheme
Medway Council has been awarded £2,056,371 of the Government’s £500million hardship fund, which will provide council tax relief to vulnerable people and households to help those affected most by coronavirus. In Medway, this will provide a reduction on council tax bills to lower income households, taking account of income and savings.
Residents who are currently part of the council tax reduction scheme will automatically receive a reduction in their annual council tax bill of up to £150.
Business rate relief
Retail discount: Retail ratepayers who have recently received a new annual bill showing a 50 per cent discount will now receive a revised bill showing a 100 per cent discount.
The 100 per cent discount has been extended to include properties completely or mainly used for leisure, hotels and assembly, such as public halls. Additionally, the previous cap restricting discount to those properties with a rateable value less than or equal to £51,000 has been removed.
The service is working hard to identify eligible properties and will issue notices to them.
Where pubs do not qualify for the 100 per cent extended retail relief, their bills will be discounted by up to £5,000.
Medway had already issued business rate bills based on the original level of relief, and will send amended bills to those affected once more details are issued from the Government.
Small business grants
The Government has allocated around £39.7million to Medway Council (due on 1 April) to fund grants to support small businesses through this period. Rate payers are being invited to provide information to check their eligibility for business support grants and ensure that bank details are correct, so that the funds can be distributed quickly.
Letters are being sent out to businesses and an online form has been created on medway.gov.uk for businesses to complete.
Emergency grant funding
Medway Council has also received £6.628m COVID-19 emergency funding from the Government to help support the local authority respond to the pandemic and address the pressures local government is facing.
Urgency powers will also be used to add this funding to the council’s revenue budget. Government has suggested spending the funding in the following areas:
- Meeting the increased demand for adult social care and enabling councils to provide additional support to social care providers.
- Meeting the cost of extra demand and higher business-as-usual costs of providing children’s social care.
- Providing additional support for the homeless and rough sleepers.
- Supporting those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, who may be asked to self-isolate in their homes for the duration of the pandemic.
- Meeting pressures across other services, as a result of reduced income, rising costs or increased demand.