Covid-19 Update

13th January 2021

 

Dear Member

COVID-19 UPDATE

It has been a busy week so far with various meetings taking place across England, Scotland and Wales to press our case and garner intelligence.  Things are still being tightened (Scotland) and seem to be getting worse before they get better.  As I mentioned earlier in the week, it looks like the vaccination programme for the most vulnerable will take at least until mid-Feb and then some more time to have its full effect on deaths and hospital numbers.  Lower priority groups will get vaccinated thereafter and likewise the impact of that on numbers in hospital will not be known for some time.  This will be crucial in determining when restrictions can be relaxed.  This will also be via a reverse mover down the tiers/levels for various areas adding further potential delay to the re-opening dates.  Members might like to use the Government’s vaccination tracker to help inform your thinking around the lifting of the business restrictions which are increasingly looking post-Easter I am sorry to say.  Click here for the tracker and other key public health data: https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/healthcare#card-people_who_have_received_vaccinations

We met with DCMS this week and discussed Covid and the Gambling Review.  We have been invited to a further meeting with the Minister Nigel Huddleston, to discuss the Covid situation which will cover the whole of the UK.  We will focus on re-opening making the case for Easter for opening for tourism businesses, getting AGCs open as non-essential retail, and looking for support for a 5% Vat rate for FECs.  As I mentioned on Monday the case for an extension in rates relief is on the Chancellor’s desk.

Before the country reports can I ask members to let me know, if they can, how they found accessing supplies of £1 coins in the summer when we were open.  The Royal Mint has asked the question as you may recall back at the start of this crisis we alerted them to the potential spike in demand that would occur when we re-opened.  This will help in planning for the recovery.

Scotland – First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, today announced a further tightening of the Country’s lockdown measures.  Whilst these will have little impact on businesses in themselves given our shutters are firmly down, it is a signal that things are still not yet moving in the direction they need to.  The measures include:

  • Limit availability and operation of click and collect.  Only retailers of essential items will be allowed to offer click and collect – clothes, footwear, baby equipment, homeware and books.  Staggered appointments and access inside premises for collection will not be allowed.
  • Apply restrictions to take away services.  Customers no longer allowed to go inside to collect takeaways or coffee.
  • Change rules on consumption of alcohol.  Against the law in all level 4 areas to drink alcohol outdoors in public.
  • Strengthen obligation on employers to allow staff to work from home whenever possible.  Statutory guidance to employers.
  • Strengthen provisions in relation to working inside people’s houses.  Only essential work allowed and to be put into law.
  • Amendment to regulation that people must not leave or remain outside of home other than for an essential purpose.  No change to essential purposes for leaving home.

In terms of lobbying we met with both the Scottish Tourism Alliance and the Scottish Tourism Recovery Group this week and are looking to schedule another meeting with the SG in the next couple of weeks.  It is noteworthy that Kate Forbes MSP has now been given full responsibility for all business support.  We will seek a meeting with her to discuss our two key asks in Scotland, getting AGCs open in Level 3 and ensuring support for the supply chain.

England – We now have details of the Closed Business Lockdown Payment available from January.  There is quite a bit of detail but essentially the new grant is an addition to the (closed) support grant – there has also been some changes to the way that operates from 5th January which alters the period over which payments are made.  Also note that Councils must run two separate application processes for the different schemes.  Also an additional £500 million has also been made available to Councils for the Local Restrictions Grant – this is the discretionary grant for which the supply chain can apply and references the hospitality supply chain by of example as eligible.

Here is some more detail:

  • Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) Addendum: 5 January onwards
    • The payment period is initially extended to 42 days from 5 January 2021 rather than the 14-day payment cycle in tiers. Local Authorities have been asked to provide the funding as soon as they receive it rather than waiting to the end of the 42 day period (ie., it will not be paid in arrears). After the 42 day period, any future payment period will be reviewed.
    • Businesses that are eligible are those that have been mandated to close by Government and include non-essential retail, leisure, personal care, sports facilities and hospitality businesses. You can reference these in the legislation https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/1374/schedule/3A or the lockdown guidance https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home#businesses-and-venues
    • The Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) Addendum: Tier 4 (Open) and (Sector) and (Closed) now cease to apply, although applications can still be made for eligible periods before national restrictions.
    • Businesses supported through LRSG (Sector) will be eligible for funding under the LRSG (Closed) Addendum: 5 January onwards during national restrictions, for example nightclubs and sexual entertainment venues.
    • The following thresholds apply to LRSG (Closed) Addendum: 5 January onwards:

a.       Businesses occupying hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value of exactly £15,000 or under on the date of the commencement of the widespread national restrictions will receive a payment of £2,001 per 42-day qualifying restriction period.

b.       Businesses occupying hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value over £15,000 and less than £51,000 on the date of the commencement of the widespread national restrictions will receive a payment of £3,000 per 42-day qualifying restriction period.

c.       Businesses occupying hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value of exactly £51,000 or above on the commencement date of the widespread national restrictions, will receive £4,500 per 42-day qualifying restriction period.

  • Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment
    • Businesses excluded from both these grants include:
      • Businesses that are able to conduct their main service because they do not depend on providing direct in-person services from premises and can operate their services effectively remotely (e.g. accountants, solicitors). 
      • Businesses in areas outside the scope of the national restrictions, as defined by Government, are also excluded. 51. Businesses that have chosen to close but not been required to will not be eligible for this grant.
    • Eligibility for the CBLP is the same as the LRSG (Closed) Addendum: 5 January onwards scheme. Businesses that are eligible are those that have been mandated to close by Government and include non-essential retail, leisure, personal care, sports facilities and hospitality businesses.
    • The scheme will close for applications on 31 March 2021, but it is expected Local Authorities will identify and pay all relevant businesses as soon as possible once the funding is received.
    • The scheme will close on 30 April 2021, so final payments will need to be made by this date.
    • The following funding thresholds apply to the Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment:

a.       Businesses occupying hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value of exactly £15,000 or under on the date of the commencement of the widespread national restrictions will receive a payment of £4,000.

b.       Businesses occupying hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value over £15,000 and less than £51,000 on the date of the commencement of the widespread national restrictions will receive a payment of £6,000.

d.       Businesses occupying hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value of exactly £51,000 or above on the date of commencement of the widespread national restrictions will receive a payment of £9,000.

 Discretionary Additional Restrictions Grant

    • Local Authorities will also receive a £500 million top up to the ARG and this can be used to support businesses that are adversely impacted but not eligible under the LRSG (Closed) Addendum: 5 January onwards or the Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment

I know some members have not been getting much joy from their local councils on the discretionary grants.  If this is the case do let me know so I can take it up with DCMS.

Members in England may also find this link useful as it provides all the guidance provided to Local Councils for the various grants.  It may be helpful if you are arguing with them over eligibility:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-restrictions-support-grants-lrsg-and-additional-restrictions-grant-arg-guidance-for-local-authorities?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_source=d5bf737a-949f-4ca5-a7f6-c7af512774c9&utm_content=immediately

Members operating piers or other heritage sites might want to look at an additional grant fund operated by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.  The application deadline is tight and it is not clear if you will get a grant but it is worth trying. Please click here: https://www.heritagefund.org.uk/funding/culture-recovery-fund-heritage-second-round?utm_source=Trustees%20of%20the%20National%20Heritage%20Memorial%20Fund&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=12056916_CRF2%20applications%20open%20%28to%20openers%20of%20heads-up%20email%29&utm_content=CRF2%20guidanceance&dm_i=12AA,76F6C,2D38Y0,T2ROW

Wales –  Applications for the latest round of funding in Wales opened today.  Click here for details: https://fundchecker.businesswales.gov.wales/sectorspecificgrant/?utm_source=UKH+CV19+-+update+email&utm_campaign=280335319a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_8_7_2020_12_58_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5608eb3d21-280335319a-57365138

We know AGCs are outrageously being excluded from grant funding but other members should apply as it includes money for the retail leisure and hospitality supply chain.

I had another meeting with WG this week to press the case for AGCs and one member has taken a complaint against his local Council to the Welsh Ombudsman.

 

Kind regards,

John