In this Church House Blog, Emily Allen, Church Buildings Missioner looks at how Church Halls, that usually play a vital role in binding the community together are responding to the crisis.
04 May 2020
By Emily Allen, Church Buildings Missioner
Our Church Halls play a vital role in the life of the church and community. Since the COVID-19 lockdown, many parishes have lost both connections with groups and individuals and a loss of regular income from room hire. This may substantially impact the finances of the church. For some parishes, essential community provision has continued, for example, running a Food Bank.
Ongoing discussions are taking place by the Church Buildings Council (CBC) at the Church of England with government and other organisations to see if anything is possible to alleviate the impact of loss of income from church halls. Any developments will be communicated with you. At present, the following provision may or may not be relevant for your Church Hall:
Responding to loss of community connections
If not done so already, you may like to send a greetings card to all regular groups and organisations who use the church hall to let them know your church is praying for them and you look forward to welcoming them again once government guidance allows.
Responding to loss of income – current financial support available
1: Top-up to local business grant funds scheme
On 2nd May, the Gov.uk website announced a top-up to the local authority grant scheme so that they will have discretion to make awards to small businesses and charities not covered by the ‘Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant’. This looks like the appropriate means for assisting those charities (e.g. with offices), Church Halls and social enterprises which currently don't qualify. Further guidance is promised to follow. You may, therefore, like to contact your Local Authority to enquire about this fund. Find out about the Top-up to local business grant funds scheme
2: Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure
Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England will not have to pay business rates for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. You do not need to do anything. If you are eligible, your local council will apply the discount automatically. You’re eligible if your property is a Shop; Restaurant, café, bar or pub; Cinema or live music venue; Assembly or leisure property - for example, a sports club, a gym or a spa; Hospitality property - for example, a hotel, a guest house or self-catering accommodation. This may apply to Church Halls and similar venue, (classed as ‘leisure’), as guidance says that it includes premises that are being used for the assembly of visiting members of the public including public halls. This may also apply to shops/cafes in Cathedrals and other Churches (if liable for business rates). Find out more about eligibility here.
3: The Retail and Hospitality Grant Fund
This Fund provides businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property. Businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of up to £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000. Businesses in these sectors with a rateable value from £15,001 up to £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000. Properties that will benefit from the relief will be occupied properties that are wholly or mainly being used:
- as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues,
- for assembly and leisure; or
- as hotels, guest & boarding premises and self-catering accommodation.
The businesses eligible for these grants are the same categories as those mentioned in respect of the ‘Business Rates Relief’ above. Local authorities will write to businesses that are eligible for this grant. If you believe that you should be eligible but do not hear anything, please contact the relevant local authority.
4: The Small Business Grant Fund
This Fund will provide all eligible small businesses in England with a grant payment of £10,000. Businesses are eligible for the grant if they are based in England and occupied a property on the 11 March 2020 which was were eligible for relief under the business rate Small Business Rate Relief Scheme (including those with a Rateable Value between £12,000 and £15,000 which receive tapered relief) or which were eligible for relief under the rural rate relief scheme.
It is likely that some small cafes and restaurants in Churches and Cathedrals will qualify. In addition, some Church Halls and other similar operations may qualify.
Local authorities will write to businesses that are eligible for this grant. If you believe that you should be eligible but do not hear anything, please contact the relevant local authority.
5: Deferring VAT
If you’re a UK VAT registered business and have a VAT payment due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, you have the option to defer payment until 31 March 2021. Check if you are eligible to defer your VAT payment
6: If your church hall is used as a children’s nursery
Please see the latest Church Buildings Council guidance for advice. This can be found here in the latest version of New Guidance on Closed Church Buildings
For more information, see the Parish Resources website.