1st April 2020
COVID-19 DAILY UPDATE
As we move through the second week of this crisis, the pace and scale of announcements about business support from Government have slowed down whilst the number of questions about the operation of the Schemes has ramped up. Today I am providing answers to some of the questions we have been asked.
Rates relief and grants
- guidance has now been published for England that sets out clearly that amusement businesses get the 100% rates relief irrespective of the rateable value of the property. Grants of £10k or £25k will be provided on a per venue basis to businesses with a rateable value below £51k. £10k up £15k rateable value and £25k over that.
- In Scotland grants are currently payable per business (we are seeking to have these paid per venue as in England) but are definitely payable to amusements businesses. The applicability of the 100% rates relief is still not entirely clear. Amusements are referred to as eligible under the grant scheme applicable to the leisure hospitality and retail businesses, but the rates relief scheme for retail, leisure and hospitality does not mention amusements. We will continue to seek clarity on this point. All businesses in Scotland will get a 1.6% rate reduction.
- The Grants Scheme funding comes into operation today in England so money should start to flow to businesses soon. New guidance to businesses has been published here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/877301/small-business-grant-and-retail-leisure-hospitality-grant-guidance-for-businesses.pdf
- The press announcement is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/high-street-benefits-from-22-billion-grants-and-business-rates-package
Job Retention Scheme
- There has been more questions on this than anything over the past few days. Our sector is not alone. These are the key questions and where we are in trying to get an answer
- Can furloughed employees undertake small tasks such as checking on empty premises? Government has not been clear on this, although verbally Treasury told us that this would not be a problem. However, this has to be made clear. Treasury have stated publicly that furloughed Directors can undertake their statutory duties without jeopardising their furloughed status.
- Can furloughed employees be required to take holiday whilst on furlough? I have received a number of contradictory opinions on this and we await a clear steer from Government.
- Does holiday accrue whilst an employee is on furlough?
- Can furloughed employees take another job? Again the guidance is not clear. Whilst an employee that already has two jobs can be furloughed for one and not for the other, taking another job is not mentioned. It might be helpful to an employee if they can, if for example there were labour shortages in a particular area in parts of the economy that need labour like food retailing and distribution. On the other hand, the scheme was not put in place to allow employees to get paid for two jobs whilst only doing one of them, it was designed to pay employment costs of someone whose employer had no work for them to do ready for when this crisis is over.
- Seasonal Workers – a number of members employ seasonal workers, many of whom were not on the payroll at 28th February, the qualifying date from which claims can be made. If you are in this position can I please ask you to write to your elected representatives setting out the consequences of this date and suggesting it should be the day the Government declared that certain businesses, such as bacta members, were told to close. We are joining with the Tourism Alliance and UKHospitality in pushing hard on this point and the support will really help. Please follow @TourismVoice on Twitter and use hashtag #Protect TourismJobs.
Local Authority Fees
- Members have kindly been feeding back responses to request for Premises Fee rebates. Most say they can’t do anything and are awaiting Government guidance. We have pressed Government to provide LAs with the advice to support businesses by, at the very least, agreeing to reduce the fees for next year’s licences (which is the easiest legal route to take), and to show understanding on payment delays.
In other news
- I don’t know if this will apply to any member but the Government has announced today that if you are moving goods through customs and are no longer able to comply with a condition of your authorisation because of Coronavirus, you can get permission from your supervising officer in HMRC of Border Force to temporarily vary the conditions of your authorisation. Please contact me for more details if you need them.
- Our lobbying is focused on rates at the moment and getting clarity on the JRS as well as feeding back on members’ experiences.
- I and bacta President, James Miller and three representatives of the membership joined bingo, betting and casino sectors in a roundtable call with DCMS Minister, Nigel Huddlestone this morning where we were able to convey our lobbying asks and requests for clarification.
- We have written numerous letters to politicians and civil servants on our asks which have been followed up with telephone calls.
- IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT THAT ALL MEMBERS CONTINUE TO WRITE OR SPEAK WITH YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES SETTING OUT THE IMPACT OF THE CRISIS ON YOUR BUSINESS AND BACTA’S LOBBYING ASKS. PLEASE COPY ME IN ON RESPONSES.
- Can members all please feedback any experiences you are having in accessing business finance, and responses from local authorities or from MPs, or indeed any other matters you want me to raise.
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