Applying for discretionary business grants [England only]

The following grants are relevant to businesses based in England only.


If your co‑op is struggling because of COVID‑19 and needs a cash grant, but is ineligible for the main grant schemes, you should try applying under the new discretionary grant scheme.

ACT NOW as demand will far outstrip supply and latecomers will miss out, even if they are in a priority group. 

Under a new discretionary grant scheme, all local authorities in England are distributing grants to local businesses that have so far missed out, to help cover ongoing costs and to ease pressure on cash flow.

Which businesses are being prioritised? 

While each local authority has been given considerable discretion in how they target and distribute this money, there are some common priorities:

  • Micro and start-up businesses that have fixed ongoing costs, especially property-related costs (e.g. rent work space from the ratepayer) 
  • Businesses that are ineligible for the Small Business Grant because they get Charitable Rate Relief rather than Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief 

Some local authorities are also setting priorities for co-ops and/or community businesses and/or social enterprises. Co‑operatives UK has been actively encouraging local authorities to target some of this support at local co-ops and community businesses. The Co‑operative Council Innovation Network, the Co‑operative Party, friendly metro mayors and the Local Government Association have all be helpful. 

Who is eligible? 

Co‑ops, community business, charities and social enterprises are all potentially eligible, subject to local authority discretion. 

This grant scheme is aimed at those micro-small businesses that are struggling because of COVID‑19 and are ineligible for other grant schemes, such as the rates-based Small Business Grant and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant.

Businesses being supported via the Job Retention Scheme (‘furlough scheme’) are eligible to apply for this scheme.

Businesses are ineligible if they have been supported through any of the following:  

  • Self Employment Income Support Scheme
  • Small Business Grant Fund
  • Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant

Local authorities have a considerable amount of discretion in how they allocate these grants.

How to apply

Most local authorities have already opened an online application process. Do not delay!

  • Go to your local authority's website and look for information on 'discretionary grants', usually in a COVID‑19 business support section
  • Read the eligibility and prioritization information – are you eligible and in a priority group? 
  • Find the online application portal and gather the supporting information required
  • If you can't find any of the above, ask the business support department at the council for more information, try your local Councilor, and check back daily.

On top of key priorities such as 'micro business with fixed ongoing costs', councils will want to allocate this money to local businesses that support decent livelihoods and add social and economic value to their areas. Co‑ops should prepare a clear pitch in these regards. How does your co‑op benefit its workers, customers and community? Our briefing for local authorities may help you – download here.

Contact us

e: [email protected]