The Government is under mounting pressure to announce ‘rural proofed’ support packages for businesses in the countryside impacted by the coronavirus. According to the Countryside Alliance some rural businesses risk being overlooked for help.
The group said rural businesses “in their nature differ considerably” to those in urban areas and need “rural proofed” packages to help during the period of the pandemic.

Many rural businesses are in the hospitality and leisure sector but there are businesses that may not be identified as such, and therefore would not be eligible e.g. horse racing stables are not eligible for government support. Livery yards and kennels are also in an unclear situation despite having been hit hard by Covid-19, and the government is under pressure to review those businesses currently classified as leisure.

A further complication arises from the fact that there is a discrepancy between how each local authority views certain businesses depending on their activities. In particular those related to sport, and whether that activity is defined as a leisure activity. This is neither acceptable nor equitable where geography plays such a role.

What is available?

Government will provide additional Small Business Grant Scheme funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBRR), rural rate relief (RRR) and tapered relief. This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.


You are eligible if:

  • your business is based in England
  • you are a business that occupies property
  • you are receiving small business rate relief or rural rate relief as of 11 March 2020.

COVID19 and CBILS (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme)

Thankfully, at present, agriculture in general is possibly the least affected business sector, and who knows, there might even be a positive effect longer term. Perhaps people will see the value of the ‘farmer’? This said, it is still going to affect most businesses in some way, be it the potential closure of livestock markets, already very heavily controlled, or where there has been diversification on the farmstead, primarily holiday lets or camping sites. Another big consideration, along with Brexit, is the availability of workers if you have a labour intensive, or seasonal, business.

While unfortunately I feel we are still in the early days of this unique situation with news coming out thick and fast from various sources, as well as Government announcing different advice, seemingly daily. If you are worried, or already having cash flow concerns, please call your existing funding provider who should be able to help in the short-term – they have the CBILS (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme) government backed loans to call on, as well as most of the High Street Banks allowing three to six month capital repayment holidays on existing loans; most are also accommodating working capital overdraft increases, fee free, during this period.

Support for businesses through deferring VAT payments

As you may have seen, VAT payments have been automatically deferred for 3 months. 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 the payment until a later date
  • pay the VAT due as normal.

However, many rural businesses benefit from VAT repayments and we advise that you submit your VAT returns as soon as possible to receive the refunds from HMRC to assist with your cashflow needs. HMRC have confirmed that repayments will continue to be made to businesses as normal during this period.