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Support available from UK government

The UK government has announced a series of measures to provide support for businesses affected by Coronavirus.

For further information and clarification, view the Coronavirus FAQ's here.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is delivering a programme of webinars on the measures to support employers and self-employed individuals through this period of disruption caused by Coronavirus. Businesses can register to attend a free webinar to learn more about the support available to help them deal with the economic impacts of  Coronavirus.

There may be some variations to the below measures announced among devolved nations. Further information on support for businesses in the devolved nations can be found:

Business Rates

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The UK government is temporarily increasing the Business Rates discount to all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England to 100% for 2020-21, irrespective of rateable value.


Financial aid

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Bounce Back Loans scheme (BBLS) - The scheme will offer loans from £2,000 up to 25% of a business’ turnover or £50,000, whichever is lower. The Government will provide lenders with a 100% guarantee for the loan and pay any fees and interest for the first 12 months. The government has then set the interest rate for this facility at 2.5% per annum for subsequent years. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months. A new ‘Pay as You Grow’ flexible repayment system will provide flexibility for firms repaying a Bounce Back Loan. This includes extending the length of the loan from six years to ten, which will cut monthly repayments by nearly half. Interest-only periods of up to six months and payment holidays will also be available to businesses. NEW: BBLS is now open for applications until 31 January 2021. The BBLS rules have also been amended to allow those businesses who have borrowed less than their maximum (i.e. less than 25% of their turnover) to top-up their existing loan.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) - This scheme delivered by the British Business Bank, will enable small and medium sized businesses to apply for a loan, up to £5m, with the government providing a guarantee of 80% on each loan and with no interest due for the first twelve months. Personal guarantees of any form cannot be taken under the scheme for any facilities below £250k. CBILS supports a wide range of business finance products, including term loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance facilities. The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders. CBILS lenders can extend the term of a loan up to ten years, providing additional flexibility for businesses who may otherwise be unable to repay their loans. NEW: CBILS is now open for applications until 31st January 2021.

Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) -Government will provide a guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans to firms with turnover of more than £45 million of up to £200 million. Companies borrowing more than £50m through CLBILS will be subject to restrictions on dividend payments, senior pay and share buy-backs during the period of the loan. The maximum size for invoice finance and asset finance facilities under the scheme is £50m. Facilities will be available from 3 months up to 3 years and will be offered at commercial rates of interest. The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders. NEW: CLBILS is now open for applications until 31 January 2021.

Future fund - a new Future Fund to support the UK’s innovative businesses currently affected by Coronavirus. These businesses have been unable to access other government business support programmes, such as CBILS, because they are either pre-revenue or pre-profit and typically rely on equity investment. The scheme will deliver an initial commitment of £250m of new government funding which will be unlocked by private investment on a match funded basis. NEW: The scheme is now open for applications until 31 January 2021.

Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) - Businesses required to close in England due to local or national restrictions (including non-essential retail, leisure, personal care, sports facilities and hospitality businesses) will be eligible to receive the following:

  • For properties with a rateable value of £15,000 or under, grant of £1,334 per 28-day qualifying restriction period.
  • For properties with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000, grant of £2,000 per 28-day qualifying restriction period.
  • For properties with a rateable value of exactly £51,000 and over, grant of £3,000 per 28-day qualifying restriction period.

Local Restrictions Support Grants (open) - UK government are providing additional funding to allow Local Authorities (LAs) for in high-alert level areas which are not legally closed, but which are severely impacted by the restrictions on socialising. The funding LAs will receive will be based on the number of hospitality, hotel, B&B, and leisure businesses in their area.

LAs will receive a funding amount that will be the equivalent of:

  • For properties with a rateable value of £15,000 or under, grants of £934 per month.
  • For properties with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000, grants of £1,400 per month.
  • For properties with a rateable value of exactly £51,000 and over, grants of £2,100 per month.

With national ‘lockdown’ restrictions being imposed, the Local Restrictions Support Grant (Open) currently ceases to apply, as relevant businesses will receive funding from the Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed). However, businesses who have who have already been subject to enhanced restrictions (Local Covid Alert Levels ‘High’ and ‘Very High’) will still the receive the grants backdated up to August 2020 if they’ve been operating with enhanced restrictions since then.

Additional Restrictions Grant - local authorities in England will receive one off funding of £1.1 billion to support businesses more broadly over the coming months which they can use this at their discretion. This will be distributed to local authorities on the basis of £20 per head of population.

Tax

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VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme’ - Businesses that deferred VAT due in March to June 2020 will be given more breathing space through the New Payment Scheme, which gives them the option to pay back in smaller instalments. Rather than paying a lump sum in full at the end March next year, they will be able to make 11 smaller interest-free payments during the 2021-22 financial year. All businesses that took advantage of the VAT deferral can use the new payment scheme. Businesses will need to opt-in, but all are eligible. For the self-employed, they will be able to benefit from a separate additional 12-month extension from HMRC on the “Time to Pay” self-service facility, meaning payments deferred from July 2020, and those due in January 2021, will now not need to be paid until January 2022.

Temporary VAT reduced rate for hospitality and tourism extended - the temporary reduced rate of VAT (5%) has been extended from 12 January to 31 March 2021. This will continue to apply to supplies of food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and similar premises, supplies of accommodation and admission to attractions across the UK.

Time to Pay upscaled - a dedicated helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities to receive support with their tax affairs. Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

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SSP will be temporarily available to those who are advised to self-isolate and people caring for those within the same household who display Coronavirus symptoms and have been told to self-isolate. A new style Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit will be available to those that are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the UK government in full. This will provide 2 million businesses with up to £2billion to cover the costs of large-scale sick leave.

From 26 May, employers across the UK with fewer than 250 employees can claim for Coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Tax agents are also able to make claims on their behalf. The repayment will cover up to two weeks of the applicable rate of SSP. See more information on eligibility and how to make a claim here.

Self-employed

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The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will provide grant support to self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

SEISS was extended further from November 2020 to April 2021. The extension will be in the form of two taxable grants at 40% of trading profits. The first grant will cover a three-month period from the start of November until the end of January.

The UK government announced on 5 November 2020 that the support to the self-employed will be increased to 80 per cent of trading profits between November 2020 and January 2021. The maximum grant will increase to £7,500. The online claims window will open on 30 November.

The UK government will set out further details on the SEISS grant covering February to April, including the level of the grant, in due course.

Temporary ban on eviction for commercial tenants

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Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction. This will mean that until the end of 2020 no business will be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment. Commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent after this period.

Relaxation of rules and regulations

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The UK government has published a list of the rules that have been temporarily relaxed to make it easier for businesses to continue working through the disruption caused by Coronavirus.

Measures from the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act extended, including allowing firms to hold virtual AGMs until 30 December 2020 and statutory demands and winding-up petitions restricted until 31 December 2020.

Apprenticeships, Traineeships and Kickstarter

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Kickstart Scheme – The UK government will introduce a new Kickstart Scheme in Great Britain, a £2 billion fund to create hundreds of thousands of high quality 6-month work placements aimed at those aged 16-24 who are on Universal Credit and are deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment. Funding available for each job will cover 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus the associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions.

Payments for employers who hire new apprentices – The government will introduce a new payment of £2,000 to employers in England for each new apprentice they hire aged under 25, and a £1,500 payment for each new apprentice they hire aged 25 and over, from 1st August 2020 to 31st January 2021. These payments will be in addition to the existing £1,000 payment the government already provides for new 16-18 year-old apprentices, and those aged under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan – where that applies.

BCC Response to Government Announcements on Net Zero

Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said “This is a positive step on the journey to net zero, however many questions on how we will get there still remain unanswered.

What is COP26 and what does it hope to achieve?

British Chambers of Commerce is hosting a significant in-person presence at COP26 in the City of Glasgow Colleges. Our programme of events features roundtables in which we will hear from industry experts across the business and net zero agenda, as well as thought leadership sessions, practical sessions for businesses and networking opportunities. Our full programme of events can be found here. We hope you can join us in Glasgow.

Quarterly Recruitment Outlook: 9 in 10 Hospitality Firms Struggle to Find Staff

Attempted recruitment during Q3 was up on previous quarters with 61% overall attempting to recruit (52% in Q2). However, this uptick was followed by large increases in the proportion of respondents reporting difficulty in filling roles – 77% in Q3 (70% in Q2).

BCC RESPONDS TO EU/UK STATEMENTS ON NI PROTOCOL

Business voices need to be heard loud and clear in the dialogue between the UK Government and the European Commission over the next few weeks.