Community venues across County Durham are being encouraged to apply for financial support to help them through the coronavirus pandemic.

With the government’s Business Support Grants scheme having now been extended, Durham County Council is urging community centres and venues, which might not have thought themselves eligible, to apply.

To date, the council has already paid out 8,693 grants totalling more than £92 million, almost 95 per cent of the total it’s expecting to pay, and council officers are now working hard to increase the number of businesses that will be supported.

Extensions to the Business Rates grant scheme are allowing the authority to prioritise small businesses in shared spaces, regular market traders who have fixed premises costs associated with their business but who don’t have their own business rates assessments and bed and breakfast operators who pay council tax.

The extension also covers charities that pay little or no business rates because of charitable rate relief, but who otherwise would have been entitled to small business rate relief or rural rate relief and are therefore eligible to support under the original scheme.

Under the current scheme the council is reaching out to not for profit organisations, community centres and venues across the county to encourage them to make a claim for a grant.

With support of the council’s Area Action Partnerships (AAPs), three community centres have already benefitted from a one-off grant of £10,000 to help meet ongoing costs.

Cassop, Quarrington Hill and Coxhoe community centres have each been awarded the grant.

Jane Bellis, East Durham Rural Corridor AAP co-ordinator, said: “We’ve had several community centres ask for help. One applied for £600 to cover urgent expenses for utility bills but we were able to direct them to the grants relief instead and they found they were eligible for a £10,000 grant. That will help to keep the centre afloat during the crisis as well as helping with future planning, and we really would encourage other centres to look into their eligibility too.”

Cllr Carl Marshall, Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We’re pleased that we’ve been able to pay out more than £92 million in grants to help more than 8,600 businesses across the county but we know that there are other businesses who are eligible for this support too who have not yet made an application and we’re determined that they access that.

“Many businesses, particularly those not for profit organisations such as community centres across the county, might not have realised that they’re eligible for the £10,000 grant and we’d encourage them to apply. We know that money would make a big difference, in not only helping their efforts to support out local communities during these difficult times, but also in ensuring they are there for our communities in the future.

“We welcome the extension to the scheme to help support those businesses that were not eligible under the initial scheme and are pleased that the government has listened to our request to expand it. Details of the extension were only published on 13 May and we are working to ensure that we make the scheme available to those businesses that can now be supported as quickly as possible. The funding is limited and the scheme will need to reflect that so not all businesses will be eligible for a grant but we will do whatever we can to ensure everyone who is eligible is provided with these grants.”

Guidelines around which businesses are eligible for the grant have been set by the government.

Businesses can find out whether they are eligible and get more information by visiting