We’re well known for our in-depth experience of all aspects of State Aid, from funding applications and projects, through to public-private collaborations and partnerships, including major regeneration, infrastructure and inward investment projects.
We’re trusted by clients to find the right solutions to make projects happen. Our approach is grounded in experience, deep knowledge of this complex area of law, economic and financial awareness and a practical, ‘can do’ style.
Our public sector clients include over 100 local authorities, education and healthcare providers, Local Enterprise Partnerships and many central government agencies. We also act for private businesses from multi-nationals to SMEs and charities seeking public financial assistance, and businesses concerned that competitors may have received illegal State Aid.
We have advised on numerous European Commission State Aid investigations and actions before the EU and national courts, and other investigations with national authorities. Many of these matters involve large, high-profile projects with considerable public investment, resulting in a high risk of challenge. What sets us apart is our genuine niche expertise in this area which enables us to support our clients in structuring state intervention with minimal distortion and a strong success rate in finding the right solution to complete the project.
It has been announced that the "Expanded Retail Discount" initiative shall be awarded on a 'no aid' basis, following discussions with the European Commission, which is good news for larger retailers who had been concerned that the new business rates relief measure announced to mitigate the impact of the Coronavirus lockdown may have been subject to a €800,000 cap.
The UK has received approval for a State aid scheme making use of the new options available under the COVID-19 Temporary Framework. This has just been revised by the European Commission on Friday 3 April to include generous measures to fund COVID-19 related R&D, testing centres and factories to manufacture devices, equipment and treatments. The new UK scheme includes the ability to fund such initiatives.
The Government has launched the Small Business Grant Fund ("SBGF") and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund ("RHLGF") which shall make grant awards to eligible businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These FAQs have been designed to assist Local Authorities administering the SBGF and RHLGF programmes as well as eligible businesses receiving such funds.
The UK Government has stated that contracting authorities must now take measures to ensure that suppliers at risk are in a position to resume normal contract delivery once the COVID-19 outbreak is over. The Government has issued PPN 02/20 which provides guidance on how public bodies should deal with their existing contractual arrangements so as to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Parliament has shut down for a month to combat the spread of coronavirus. One of its last acts, in the final session, was to pass through the Coronavirus Bill, which received Royal Assent on Wednesday night. At the same time Royal Assent was given to the very short Contingencies Funding Act 2020, which provides the Government departments with the authority to expend resources, capital and cash via the supply process.
Whilst some of the detail remains subject to further sub-ordinate legislation we have set out below a list of the key provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020 (the "Act") as they relate to local authorities.
Two newly approved UK State aid schemes comprising the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will allow the UK Government to provide loan guarantees for and direct grants to support SMEs during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been approved by the European Commission following its newly adopted Temporary Framework for emergency State aid to business affected by the pandemic.
The UK Government has recognised that there will be a range of emergency purchasing needs from public authorities in responding to the impact of COVID-19. In such circumstances, authorities may need to procure goods, services and works with such critical speed as to make it impossible to respect usual public procurement rules. The Government has therefore very helpfully issued PPN 01-20 to set out some of the options available to authorities under pressure to do things quickly.
The European Commission has granted State aid approval for an award of €53m (£45m) public funding to install a network of electric vehicle charging points in Romania. The decision will be of interest to Governments looking to introduce measures to support the transformation of the automotive sector and also to Local Authorities taking action to address the climate emergency in their specific territories.