RULES for businesses in a borough to claim cash from a new coronavirus relief fund are to be changed because of low take-up.

Blackburn with Darwen Council was given £3,678,533 from the government's new Covid 19 Additional Relief Fund (CARF) worth £1.5 billion nationally.

But local firms have been slow take up the available grants.

Now the council's executive board are to be asked to tweak the scheme to encourage more businesses to apply when it meets today/tomorrow (THURSDAY).

A report by the authority's finance boss Cllr Vicky McGurk says: "The fund is intended to be available to support businesses adversely affected by the pandemic that are ineligible for the existing support linked to business rates, i.e. Small Business Rates Relief, Expand Retail Discount and Nursery Discount.

"Blackburn with Darwen Council’s allocation totals £3,678,533.

"The relief was launched in February and potentially eligible businesses were contacted and invited to apply online.

"Due to the low number of applications, an amendment to the policy is now proposed.

"In March 2021 the government provided initial details on the additional support that would be put in place for businesses affected by the pandemic.

"Further details were outlined in the budget on the October 27which established the CARF for businesses who have had little support during the pandemic but been adversely affected.

"In January 2022 a policy was agreed whereby eligible businesses would be invited to apply for the relief via an on line application process.

"Despite extensive communication and marketing of the scheme, only 101 applications were received before the closing date on March.

To ensure the full allocation of £3,678,533 is used to support businesses in the borough, an amendment to the scheme is now proposed.

"The initial approach of inviting businesses to apply only produced low numbers of applications.

"To ensure the full funding allocation is dispersed to businesses, it is now proposed that the business rates team review the details of all potentially eligible businesses and make a direct award to accounts.

"The amount of relief will be the percentage relief that can be awarded for the 2021/22 liability.

"It is proposed that an initial award totalling 90 per cent of the fund is awarded to eligible businesses.

"The remaining 10 per cent can be held back to ensure unidentified businesses and variations in rateable value are accommodated.

"Any remaining monies left in the fund will be allocated across all eligible businesses later in the year as the fund is brought to an end."