GOV.UK Update, Risk Information & Opening Resources: 11th June

GOV.UK Update, Risk Information & Opening Resources: 11th June

GOV.UK Update, Risk Information & Opening Resources: 11th June

Hi everyone,

We are excited to be nearing the date when many businesses will gradually open and we know there is a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes to prepare. Firstly, my apologies for the length of this – as detailed below, we found out the date of the highways changes tonight (while writing) so this is now briefly included (with more to follow soon). Please use the key below to identify information relevant to you:

  1. Preparing to Return – Government Guidance
  2. Risk Assessments
  3. Highways Changes / Road Closures / Deliveries / Free Parking – Please READ (Closures coming next week)
  4. Public Realm Management – Pavement & Window Stickers and Posters
  5. HR / Bringing People Back – Webinar coming …

 

1.  Preparing to Return – Government Guidance

No doubt you will have seen a range of industry specific literature and advice relating to businesses opening considerations and requirements. The following GOV.UK website links, are being constantly updated and are a clear and accurate source of information. The PDF summary of the ‘shops and branches’ guidance can be downloaded by clicking here.

UK.GOV Guidance for a wide range of other sectors, activities and questions can also be found by clicking the following UK.GOV web links (right click, open hyperlink):

 

2.  Risk Assessments – Please do an assessment and display the ‘Retail Display Poster’ at the link below.

Employers have a duty to reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures, and must work with any other employers or contractors sharing the workplace so that everybody’s health and safety is protected. Using relevant guidance (above) you are required to make a step by step assessment of potential risks posed by COVID-19 in your workplace and the measures taken to mitigate them. If you have not already done so, an assessment should be made as soon as possible.

Once done, you should share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce. If possible, you should consider publishing the results on your website

We also recommend that you display this poster (please see the link) in your workplace, to show you have followed this guidance. Please click here (PDF). 

 

Help Writing a Risk Assessment:

A number of people have asked us for advice on how to write a risk assessment, including templates and examples. We suggest the following steps:

      1. Identify hazards
      2. Assess the risks
      3. Control the risks
      4. Record your findings
      5. Review the controls
 
Risk Assessment Examples and Templates:
  • We are happy to provide a risk assessment template from the HSE as well as one with some example Covid-19 wording (word doc – please email us if this would help?). Please note, your risk assessment must always be specific to your business.
  • You can also find other specific examples as follows (PDF links, right click, open hyperlink):
  • We advise you take a methodical approach, speak to others including your staff to inform your understanding of relevant risks, and please feel free to speak to us

 

3.  Highways Changes / Road Closures / Deliveries

 Changes are Coming …

We have just been informed that Warwickshire County Council plan to close a number of roads in the town centre in advance of businesses re-opening on Monday 15th June. That means closures will be installed on the evening of Sunday 14th. 

The closure, is much like the one that is put in place on Sundays at Christmas and includes:

  • The Parade between Clarendon Avenue and Regent Grove.
  • Warwick Street between Tavistock Street and Guy Street.
  • Regent Street between Bedford Street and Park Street.

The scheme also involves:

  • The temporary suspension of some on-street parking on one side of Park Street, parts of Warwick St, Bedford St, and Regent Grove.
  • Reducing Bath Street to a single lane of traffic.
 
Business Impact and Support:

Recently, a huge amount of time has been spent engaging with Warwickshire County Council on their plans. A number of sensible changes to the original plans have been negotiated. Among the issues we are stressing, is the importance of retaining  access to the ‘closed area’ for the loading, delivery and collection. This includes: any kind of cars, vans and trucks needed to re-stock businesses, any kind of delivery (UPs, Courier, Post, Food, Products etc) and any kind of collection (Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Own vehicles etc) as we know businesses are all heavily reliant on this. We are also considering click and collect, areas to extend trading, disabled parking, bus routing and more.

As of today, important aspects of the proposals need improvement. After feeding this back, Warwick District Council have stepped in to help us where we need it – and we are very grateful. Our absolute priority is to make this transition as safe, smooth and welcoming as possible.

As a part of this, we will be setting up a process for you to easily feedback any questions or concerns. For their part, the County Council have said they are flexible and will adapt plans if needed.

Free Parking!

As well as supporting the town centre with the road closures, Warwick District Council have also announced FREE Parking in off-street car parks until the 1st of August. With respect to this, we would be grateful if you can encourage your staff to use ‘multi-story’ car parks (St Peters or Covent Garden), so that surface, shorter stay car park spaces are free for customers.

 

4.  Public Realm Management – Stickers and Posters

We are happy to supply you:

  • Floral Social Distancing Pavement Stickers (with and without text)
  • Floral ‘Please Queue here’ Window Stickers
  • Floral ‘We’re Open’ Window Stickers

Also, we have some helpful store posters and social medial images coming your way soon to direct customers and foster a sense of kindness and understanding as we transition forwards. That is for another email though … In the meantime, please let us know if you would like any of the above? Guidance on queueing and ‘sticker placement’ is also attached.  

     

 

5.  HR / Bringing People Back … Webinar Coming

As we transition into the next phase of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for furloughed staff on the 1st July, we know that a number of questions will arise. As before, please get in touch if you need any specific HR advice as our support arrangement with Absolute Works HR continues. They are working with us to prepare a ‘return to work’ support package – coming soon.

Also, we are planning a webinar with Absolute Works that will include a Q&A and round table discussion on practical HR and Employment law issues and the CJRS (furlough scheme). Please watch this space for the invitation. In the meantime, please email us any immediate questions you have …

Phew  … We need some flowers now …

Don’t forget to join our Leamington Town Centre Facebook Group if you haven’t already. We will also post updates on the BID Leamington Facebook Page – and the Royal Leamington Spa Town Centre Facebook page is where we will showcase what you are now doing.

Best wishes and we look forward to seeing you soon,

Steph & Alison

PPE & Public Realm Resources, plus Survey: 6th May

PPE & Public Realm Resources, plus Survey: 6th May

PPE & Public Realm Resources plus Survey

We hope you are all safe and well.

We know that businesses are beginning to prepare for ‘life after lockdown’ in some form. We are also actively working on a town centre recovery plan with our partners, which includes managing the public realm to ensure customers feel safe and welcome.

 

Emerging Guidance & PPE Resources

Though detailed government guidance is not yet available, some industry groups have issued preliminary guidance, such as the British Retail Consortium (BRC) whose advice for retail stores can be found by clicking here. They have also issued some helpful Q&A guidance which practical information relating to kits, staff, customers, inside and outside the store liabilities, and have guidance on warehousing and distribution spaces too.

Generally, this suggests the use of hand sanitiser, counter screens, floor marking and various types of PPE (personal protective equipment). Recognising growing demand, the government has issued a warning that some products may run out, so we are thinking about this now. We are also aware of the need to find collective cost savings, so are exploring the option of bulk purchasing some products, but this will depend on demand and consistency of needs.

Reflecting this, we have compiled some summary information and a short survey, to help us understand your potential needs.

Please find attached:

  1. BID summary document (PPE Resources – click here) including details of local suppliers and some specialist suppliers, from further afield who we have previously worked with.

 

Survey – Business Supplies & Support:

If you are interested in bulk buying / delivery opportunities or bespoke floral floor graphics or angel wings (see below), please fill in this short survey. Please complete this by Sunday 10th May, so we can action this accordingly first thing next week.

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/DCBXTBW

Please note, we can make no promises on the supply of products mentioned in this survey but will do our very best to accommodate or signpost identified needs. However, if you are concerned about timing on items (e.g. bespoke counter screens) we encourage you to make contact with relevant suppliers soon.

By completing this survey, you will help us to:

  1. Anticipate demand, so we can explore bulk buying options on your behalf;
  2. Identify high quality local suppliers that you can source products from;
  3. Help to ensure consistency of products and messages around the town centre to aid customers;
  4. Potentially reduce costs and the carbon footprint by coordinating delivery;
  5. Identify other areas where support is needed.

Public Realm: Floral Social Distancing Stickers & NHS Angel Wings

As you will see attached and within the survey, we are preparing to install some bespoke floral floor graphics in public realm areas to highlight social distancing needs AND importantly, to provide a welcoming environment in our town centre. We have sourced these from a specialist placemaking company called ‘City Dressing’ and want to understand the wider demand for these so we can consider additional purchasing options. We are also exploring the idea of ‘Angel Wings’ window graphics and would value your feedback via the survey above.

 

Other Updates:

 

Raise the Bar

Many thanks to the businesses who have supported this, particularly Nigel from Status Menswear and Matt from the Royal Pug, who provided case studies for local and national press. We continue to work hard on lobbying government. The petition now has nearly 15,000 signatures!

 

Extended Government Support

On Saturday 2nd of May, the government announced a discretionary fund has been set up to accommodate certain small businesses previously outside the scope of the business grant funds scheme. This equates to a further £617 million pounds of business support. We are still awaiting details of funding criteria and will be in touch as soon as we know. You can read about the scheme by clicking here.

 

BID Funding

On Friday 1st May, the government announced Business Improvement Districts will receive a share of 6.1 million in funding to help high streets and town centres through the pandemic. This recognises the role BIDs like ourselves are playing, offering hands-on support to those businesses affected, including advisory services, increased security to protect businesses that have closed, and providing key intelligence to local and central government on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on their local economies. We are still awaiting details of this funding, but welcome this, as it will be invested directly into supporting our members and the town centre during these challenging economic times. You can read about the scheme by clicking here.

 

Stay Up to Date & Follow Us

Please join our Leamington Town Centre Facebook Group if you haven’t already. We will also post updates on the BID Leamington Facebook Page – and the Royal Leamington Spa Town Centre Facebook page is where we will showcase what you are now doing. Stay tuned as next week we are going digital with a podcast and Zoom interview which will be shared on Facebook.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with Steph or Alison on info@bidleamington.com if you have any queries and we will be in touch again soon.

Best wishes and stay safe.

Lets Raise The Bar

Lets Raise The Bar

Raise The Bar

This post relates to the campaign to extend the £25,000 grant scheme. It is directed to our members who are in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector and whose business has a rateable value between £51,001 and £150,000, as listed by the VOA on the GOV.UK website.

We are aware that due to the rateable value, your property was NOT eligible to receive grant funding as a part of the governments COVID-19 Retail and Leisure Hospitality Grant Scheme.

This exclusion has negatively impacted businesses in some towns / parts of the country more than others. In the Leamington Town Centre BID Area it means 109 businesses miss out on grant funding, that we know will make a big difference in supporting you, your staff and your business through this trying period. In London, this affects around 19,000 businesses. Feedback from those who have received grants suggest it has offered a lifeline, enabling them to pay suppliers, manage stock-loss, pay rent and overheard costs, support adaption and in some cases, survive.

I have been working with industry organisations and other BIDs to put together a campaign to address this gap. This is called ‘Raise the Bar’. A letter headed by Croydon BID which I also contributed to, has been sent to Rt. Hon. Alok Sharma MP who is the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. This can be read by clicking here.

The website is here: https://raisethebarcampaign.com. In the last week there has been a fantastic uptake in national press and a question was raised at the Government’s daily briefing with Matt Hancock MP about this yesterday.

How can you help?

We have a government petition which has now been signed by nearly 15,000 people, which you can sign by clicking here. Please share with #RaiseTheBar.

We are looking for business case studies … that is, businesses who would be willing to provide further details about the impact of COVID-19, your current position and how getting a £25,000 grant would help you. Please note, that case study information will be shared with the press, and you may be contacted. Of course, we will support you with this also. Please let me know if this interests you…

It is worth noting that the business support that has been provided to date is hard won. BIDs, membership organisations and industry bodies all over the country are lobbying for their members, and it is important that we express an honest picture of your current circumstances. Also, we are well aware that there are many other ‘asks’ of government at the moment, and that further support will be needed going forwards too. For now, ‘Raise the Bar’ is a deliverable ‘ask’ and would make an immediate impact.

If you would like further information or an informal chat about this, please reply by email (stephanie@bidleamington.com) and I will be in touch.

Best wishes, stay safe and keep in touch.

Information Update: 23rd April

Information Update: 23rd April

Information Update: 23rd April

Each week it feels like there is so much to update you on and we are conscious of the vast amounts of information you need to digest. Based on this we have tried to keep this update brief, but please reach out if you have any specific questions.

 

1.  Business Survey…

The results of the BID Business Survey that we undertook in the first week of April are now on our website. It was completed by 41 businesses and the results were sobering. The data was fed back to politicians and policy makers at the highest levels and we hope played some small role in decisions, such as the extension for the job retention scheme (furloughed employees). As announced on the 17th of  April, this has been extended for 1 month, until June.

However, there is more work to do!

As a member of the BID Foundation National Council we have regular contact with executives from the UK Government High Street Task Force and the Institute of Place Management who are both in regular contact with treasury and other government departments. We are actively lobbying on issues important to you and supporting the lobbying efforts of other organisations. Together, this plays a big part informing important decisions about programmes of support. So we would like a little more of your time if possible …

There is a new survey out that we would be very grateful if you could compete also … This one has been created by Manchester Metropolitan University, on behalf of the Government’s High Street Task Force and the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Please complete the survey here: https://mmu.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_e5aDvA8Ae5zosK1

It will take less than 15 minutes and results are needed by Monday 27th April. Please feel free to share with other business owners. 

Why is this important? What are we asking for?

This data will go directly to government. In particular, MHCLG are in need of specific data relating to occupiers and landlords, in order to make important decisions about programmes of support. There are also are a number of big ‘asks’ being considered by government at the moment including:

 

2.  Raise the Bar Campaign – Calling Businesses with RV £51K up to £150K

We are supporting the ‘Raise the Bar’ campaign announced by The BID Foundation and partners today, and had a role composing the letter to the Rt. Hon. Alok Sharma MP. It this is successful, it would benefit over 100 of our local businesses who were not eligible for existing grant funding.

This campaign aims to secure additional financial assistance in the form of a £25K grant to retail, leisure and hospitality sector businesses with a rateable value above £51K up to £150K. These businesses they are important employers and this funding would help them to sustain the current emergency measures and support them to adapt. More information, is available here:  www.raisethebarcampaign.co.uk.

If you are a business that would benefit from this support and wants to help, please get in touch!

Please also get involved on social media if you support this – the hashtag is: #raisethebar

Please sign the petition by clicking here. 

 

3.  The Job Retention Scheme – the HMRC Portal

The HMRC Portal which you must use to reclaim the wages of furloughed staff went live on Monday 20 April and to date than 285,000 businesses have already applied. Feedback from our members has been mixed. Some have found the process to be very smooth, while others have had issues with the system ‘timing out’. We are keen to hear about your experiences of this …

Also, we are aware that some of you have quite specific questions. Please email them to us directly and we will endeavour to help.

Below are some helpful notes and links:

Useful Guides:

Accessing the system:

In order to make a claim you will need an active PAYE enrolment. This means you need to:

  • Have a Government Gateway (GG) ID and password – if you don’t already have a GG account, you can apply here or by going to GOV.UK and searching for ‘HMRC services: sign in or register’
  • Be enrolled for PAYE online – if you aren’t registered yet, you can do so now, or by going to GOV.UK and searching for ‘PAYE Online for employers’.

Updated! Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Calculator:

The online calculator tool was updated by HMRC on Wednesday 22nd so that it covers more employment circumstances. The update will mean that you can use it to work out what you can claim for most employees who are paid variable amounts each pay period, as well as those who are paid fixed amounts.

If you have already made a claim:

Please remember to retain all records and calculations for your claims, in case HMRC need to contact you about them. Provided your claim is made in accordance with HMRC’s published guidance, you can expect to receive the funds six working days after your application.

Webinars – Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: You can now view webinars via recordings on HMRC’s YouTube channel.

 

4.  What Next?

As we go into another week of lockdown and digest the recent extension to emergency measures, we are well aware that for some the challenge gets harder. We also know that questions are beginning to be asked about what ‘life after lockdown’ will look like. In the coming days we will publish further thoughts on this, and we welcome your feedback.

However at this moment it is worth reiterating that we are still 100% focused on levering in additional support. We know this is needed both to fill gaps (those who missed out, are struggling with rent etc) and to ensure businesses can adapt to the challenges ahead. This ‘adaptive support’ is required in terms of ‘phasing out’ existing support such as the wage relief scheme, as well as providing funding for businesses to adapt and evolve.

Sitting above all this, we are also lobbying government for more information so we can all plan ahead. We are asking the government to be strategic and clear about the steps ahead – and perhaps take a leaf out of the New Zealand book, so we can begin to operate from a less reactive and emotive stance.

So there is much to do! The big ‘ask’ from us to you in this email is to complete the survey and let us know if you can support the ‘raise the bar’ campaign? 

To catch up on other recent activity, including our FSB webinar live Q&A and information on business grants, please explore our dedicated COVID-19 page which is regularly updated and can be found by clicking here. Also, for those that are trading or considering it, don’t forget to keep us updated with your plans.

Please take care, stay safe and stay in touch,

Steph and Alison

Information Update: 13th April

Information Update: 13th April

Information Update: 13th April

We hope you have had a nice Easter. Please read on, this is a quick but important update with some key things to check.

I’m Going Live with the FSB to answer your questions:

When: Tuesday 14th April (tomorrow!)
Time: 14:00 – 15:00
Register: https://www.fsb.org.uk/event-calendar/warwickshire-coventry-bids-highstreet-coronavirus-forum.html

Over the last few weeks I have been working with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) so we can collectively lobby on business critical issues.

If you have any outstanding questions or issues to discuss, we are inviting you to join us live. I will be with Michael Weedon, the FSB’s Chair for the Retail Policy Unit, as well as BID managers from nearby BIDs.

Please email me any specific questions you have, or submit questions once you have registered. Please note, you will need to register with the FSB to book a slot, but you do not have to be a member i.e. it is open to all.

A Note on Furloughed Staff

We are a little worried that some businesses may have furloughed staff, but may not have competed all the documentation required. As you know guidance has been rapidly changing and the process must also be suited to the contract you have with your staff. In addition, the guidance states that an employer should:

  1. Discuss with their staff and make changes to the employment contract by agreement
  2. Confirm in writing to their employee that they have been furloughed
  3. Keep a record of this for FIVE years, as HMRC may audit this

It is also important not to discriminate when selecting individuals to furlough, where you have a pool of employees who do the same job and there also many questions e.g. how does sick pay and maternity pay affect furlough pay, can you take holiday during furlough pay, can I reemploy someone who I have already made redundant due to COVID-19, what do you do if a furloughed employee refuses to come back to work, can a furloughed employee take up a second job?

I have attached two information sheets, and there is more information on our website – please see No 5 at this link (click here).

Also, we don’t want you to worry about this, so have teamed up with Absolute HR who are offering to take you through a quick and confidential 10min check at no cost to your business.

Please let me know if you would like to register for this support?

Important! Payment Gateway Registration (for furloughed staff) – please read to avoid delay

If you currently have staff which are furloughed, HMRC have advised that the portal to reclaim wages should be open from Monday 20th April. HMRC have also advised that to access the new portal you must have registered for PAYE online.

Importantly, at this stage, accountants or Payroll Bureaus who process payrolls on your behalf, will NOT be able to file the claim through the portal using their current agency arrangements. Based on this there is an important step that YOU must take to make sure you are prepared to make your claim through the portal.

If you already have a government gateway (you may have set one up, for example, when you implemented making tax digital), you’ll need to find your 12 digit Government Gateway ID and your password. You then need to login and make sure your PAYE liability is shown. If not, then you need to select the option to enrol for ‘PAYE for Employers’ under ‘Services you can add’ and enter your details.

https://www.gov.uk/log-in-register-hmrc-online-services

Attached above, is the information we received from our accountant (which we are permitted to share) outlining the registration links and process, including what to do if you have lost your 12 digit Government Gateway ID and password. We also recommend you contact your own accountant for advice if needed.

As mentioned above, it is important that you check whether you already have this or take action now to obtain registration as it can take 10 days to get registered. You will not be able to apply and receive your grant until you have this PAYE registration.

Please also note, the increase in National Minimum Living Wage came into effect on April 1st.

Happy Easter & What’s Coming Up …

Once again, Alison and I hope you had a pleasant Easter, and maybe even had time to do our online Easter Egg hunt with family or friends. There is still time: http://www.loveleamington.com.

This week, we will continue to focus on lobbying for additional business support across a range of areas, including support for businesses who did not get grants. Thank you to those that competed the survey. The results were sobering but very important and collated data will be shared with partners, including our MP and the Minister for Business and Industry as we seek further support. They will also be available on website soon.

Please do not hesitate to contact us about issues that concern you.

We hope you stay safe and well.

Information Update: 6 April

Information Update: 6 April

Information Update: 6 April

Please find below our latest update (April 6) which is based on GOV.UK updates, questions and conversations we have had over the past week. This is quite long, so please use the summary below to jump to the sections relevant to you.

Our conversations have covered a wide variety of issues and it is clear that individual circumstances vary, meaning that some of the advice below may need to be checked further with professionals who understand your specific circumstances.

If you do not have access to this support, please get in touch. Over the past few weeks we have arranged professional HR, Legal and Financial advice at no cost to the business, and are in the process of arranging support for those who need help with negotiations.

To summarise, this April 6th update includes:

  1. The BID Business Survey (Please complete if you haven’t already)
  2. Grants News – incl VAT & Corporation Tax advice
  3. Commercial Tenant Protection – withholding rent and eviction
  4. Empty Properties – Security and Insurance
  5. The Job Retention Scheme (80% wage relief)
  6. Bank Loans – SME Update
  7. BID Lobbying – We Need You!
  8. Pubs / Restaurants – HMRC Guidance on Disposing beer
  9. Love Leamington / Leamington Delivers – What Do You Think?
  10. Additional Business Support

 

1.  Business Survey (please complete)

Below is a link to a survey that I would be very grateful if you could complete. We are working with a number of partner organisations to understand business concerns and lobby for additional support, which we know is needed if this lockdown continues. We also know there are a number of issues and gaps in existing support measures. This week we will be contacting and / or speaking to political and business leaders including the Minister for Business and Industry, so it is very important we understand the details of your unique challenges as this helps us all find practical and timely solutions.

The questions within were formulated at a regional level and we have adapted them. Your answers will only be seen by myself (Stephanie Kerr), and then they will be anonymised. The outcome will help us to direct our support to you and the fully anonymised and collated data will be shared with regional and national policy makers, politicians and local authorities. All personal data will be destroyed once it has been collated.

There are 10 survey questions (7 min is the average time): https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/RXTNWVF

Thank you very much in advance.

 

 2.  Grant News – Including VAT and Corporation Tax

Warwick District Council have begun the process of distributing grant funds. At the time of writing (Sunday 2pm) we are advised that 450 grants had been processed but there is still some way to go. We have passed on our sincere appreciation to the WDC team who have worked through the weekend. For those still wondering if they are eligible, please click here or get in touch.

For those that have not registered yet, don’t worry – here is the link: https://www.warwickdc.gov.uk/info/20827/coronavirus/1553/coronavirus_information_for_businesses/2.

Grants – VAT and Corporation Tax:

We sought advice from our accountants on the question of if grants are subject to VAT. The answer we received is: “As we currently understand it, there will be no conditions attached to this grant and therefore it should be classed as outside of the scope of VAT. Based on this there would be no VAT to pay on the grant income. However, our current understanding (as of the 31 March) is that the grant will be classed as income in the accounts and therefore will be subject to corporation tax

If you are at all unsure about this, we would recommend you flag this with your accountants, or direct any other questions back to us and we will try to help. With many of these things, business specific advice is required.

 

3.  Commercial Tenant Protection – Including withholding rent

On the 23 March 2020, the government announced tenants would be protected from eviction for three months, in the event of non-payment of rent. This is now law, contained within the Coronavirus Act 2020, Section 82.

In summary this says:

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction. Many landlords and tenants are already having conversations and reaching voluntary arrangements about rental payments due shortly, but the government recognises businesses struggling with their cashflow due to coronavirus remain worried about eviction. These measures mean no business will be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment in the next 3 months.

However, a closer look reveals that this approach needs careful attention, so the following points highlight potential considerations. Please note, these are generic observations and may or may not be relevant to your business so are offered without prejudice. Please get in touch if you would like further professional advice or support in this area of decision making.

The Issues:

  1. Whilst the tenant cannot be evicted for 3 months if rent is unpaid, the tenant is still obligated to pay rent for this period.
  2. The policy is silent on the time period over which the outstanding sum must be paid, meaning it could be due once the emergency measures end (June 30th – but this could be extended).
  3. The policy is silent on what happens after the 3 months period ends, so in effect, the tenant could be evicted after this time.
  4. The policy does not suspend interest owed on the unpaid sum, which is significant as some leases have punitive interest rates for unpaid sums (e.g. 5% above base rate).
  5. The policy does not protect the tenant from other forms of legal action.
  6. Depending on the lease, there may be consequences for the deposit (if relevant).

Here is some generic legal advice on the topic from the perspective of landlords.

Possible Considerations: 

If you are considering withholding rent during this period, please consider:

  1. Carrying out cashflow analysis, including assumptions to clearly understand your circumstances over the coming months and decide accordingly. Please let us know if you would like support with this.
  2. Speak to your landlord. You may be able to discuss payment options such as a rent reduction for a limited time, monthly payments or another arrangement suited to your needs.
  3. If you are considering withholding rent:
    1. Ensure you have an agreement with the landlord (in writing) that covers the subsequent repayment terms and period.
    2. Please check your lease to ensure you know if you will be charged interest and how much.
    3. Please ensure that your deposit (if relevant) is considered.

Importantly, any changes to the lease or agreements should be in writing and we strongly suggest you take legal advice on this.

As explained further below, lobbying further on some of the issues highlighted above is a priority for us so we welcome your feedback. Over the past two weeks we have heard a mixture of heart-warmingly good and concerning feedback, and we have also spoken to some landlords, so we know it is important to support all interests.

 

4.  Empty Properties  – Insurance

As set out in the Burgis and Bullock (available here) fact sheet, if a property is vacant for an extended period of time, as well as security, there are a number of insurance considerations for tenants, freeholders who lease properties and owner-occupiers.

Here are a few things for tenant to check:

  1. Are there any requirements to maintain a particular level of security if the premises are empty?
  2. Is there a requirement to notify the landlord if the property will be empty for an extended period of time?
  3. Check your general insurance policy and any notification requirements

Please click here for:

 

 5.  The Job Retention Scheme – (Wage relief and holiday entitlement)

For many the word ‘furlough’ is quite new and don’t be worried if you are still not 100% sure how to say it. For both employers and employees this is a term and a process that we know many of you have very quickly become familiar with. The details of the UK GOV Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in respect to ‘furloughed staff’ raises important questions the details of the scheme, and who it applies to, have become clearer.

By far the best and most up to date guidance can be found on the GOV.UK site by clicking here.

We also found that the CIPD Q&A which can be found here, very helpful. This addresses key questions and areas to be mindful of.

Some key areas of interest we noted were:

  • Where impacted by COVID-19, you can furlough employees and apply for a grant that covers 80% of their usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month plus employers NI and pension contributions.
  • Employers should have consulted and notified staff in writing and have their agreement to furlough them. Changing the status of employees always is subject to existing employment law. Please get in touch if you would like a template letter.
  • The scheme applies to staff on flexible zero-hour contracts, as well as agency staff and full and part time employees, who were on the employer’s PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020.
  • Directors can be furloughed and still carry out their ‘Statutory Duties’ even sole directors, but they cannot ‘sell’ or provide services on behalf of the company. Please note, this needs to be appropriately recorded in the company records.
  • The scheme will run for three months from March 1st (but may be extended as necessary).
  • The subsequent funding is a grant which employers do not have to pay back.
  • Three weeks is the minimum length of time an employee can be furloughed for.
  • To claim the reimbursement employees must not undertake work for the employer at all while furloughed. Staff can be brought back to work after the three week period.
  • Employees with two or more employers can be furloughed for each job separately.
  • Claims will be made via an online portal, which will be operational from the end of April and monies paid by BACs into a UK bank account.
  • Employers can make a collective claim for the group of furloughed employees, but it is anticipated that employers may need to make more than one claim throughout the period, and that employers will submit one claim at least every three weeks.
  • Employers cannot backdate (to the 1st March) the furlough period for all employees. The scheme is only backdated to cover employees who have already been made redundant as a result of the coronavirus restrictions.
  • Furloughed employees’ wages are subject to Income Tax and National Insurance as usual, and employers also pay employers’ NI and automatic enrolment contributions unless the employee has opted out.
  • Employers can make up the additional pay (20%), but they are not required to do so. Please also note Tax, NI and pension implications of this.
  • Payments received by a business under the scheme must be included as income in the business’s calculation of its taxable profits for Income Tax and Corporation Tax purposes, in accordance with normal principles.
  • HMRC will retain the right to retrospectively investigate and audit employers’ claims.

Holiday Leave Entitlement:

  • Employees remain employed during furlough leave so statutory holiday will accrue during the furlough period.
  • We note new legislation relating to holidays: Workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement by the end of 2020 due to COVID-19 have a legal right be able to carry it over into the next two leave years. Please click here for details.

Here is some generic advice on the topic:

Please note, advice is being updated regularly so make sure to check back on the GOV.UK website.

 

6.  Bank Loans – SME Update

A number of members have fed back issues in respect to accessing bank loans – including the government backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). These loans are promoted as a possible option for businesses to relieve short and medium term cash flow challenges. Feedback was that banks were asking for personal security (even though the loans are 80% backed by government), the process was taking too long or in some cases denied, as banks steered their clients to other options, that had higher interest.

Late last week the government introduced measures to rectify some of these challenges including: 

  1. Banks are no longer allowed to take personal guarantees of any form for loans (facilities) below £250,000.
  2. The requirement that banks consider other lending options has been removed, which will likely help speed up the process.
  3. The minimum size CBILS loan sum of £25,000 remains, however different lenders are offering a range of options for sums below this (please see below).

Specific eligibility criteria and guidance for SME’s has been updated on the British Bank website, which you can view here.

In summary, now that access has been opened up to smaller businesses, who previously would not have been eligible for CBILS, it may be worthwhile re-contacting your lender if you have previously been unsuccessful in securing suitable funding.

Interest rates: We have been asked about interest rates in year two of the CBILS scheme (after the interest free period ends) and we can advise that this would be at the discretion of the banks. We spoke to one bank who advised that (for them) interest rates would be in line with standard secured policy and client risk rating, typically from 2% – 5%, but it would be best to speak to your own bank directly.

Here are links to the updated CBILS scheme terms of the major banks. You will see a minimum of £25,000 can be loaned and lesser amounts are directed to other lending facilities.

  • Barclays – £25,001 minimum
  • Lloyds – £25,000 minimum
  • HSBC – £25,000 minimum for sole traders and partnerships and £10,000 for incorporated entities
  • Nat West – a range of options from £1000 upwards
  • Santander – £25,000 minimum

I also note that a number of banks such as Lloyds are offering their commercial clients a repayment holiday on property, which we hope may create opportunities for the benefits to be passed onto their tenants.

 

 7.  BID Lobbying – We Need You!

As mentioned above we would be very grateful if you complete our survey. We are in direct contact with our MP and through The BID Foundation and other organisations such as the FSB, Growth Hub and Chamber of Commerce, have direct contact with the UK Government, so we are also looking for your feedback to ensure the right kind of additional support is made available going forwards. If this is relevant to you, please feedback your experiences.

Key issues that are currently lobbying for additional support on are:

  1. Support for businesses with a rateable value greater than £51,000, who did not receive any grant funding.
  2. Greater protection for commercial tenants as we feel the existing ‘protection from eviction’ needs to go further.
  3. Guidance for landlords who are in receipt of grant funding (as the registered rate payer), but are not the current tenant (e.g it is leased, subleased or not sole occupancy).
  4. Further protection for businesses if the current emergency measures are extended.

We are also aware of a petition for Small Ltd Company Directors to get Government support like the Employed and Self Employed. We note the recent update to Job retention Scheme, does now include salaried company directors (as noted above). We would be interested to understand how many of our business owners this now applies to, so please get in touch if this is still an issue relevant to you?  

 

8.  Pubs and Restaurants – HMRC Guidance on Disposing of Beer

If you are a brewer or publican, please note that temporary changes to the destruction of spoilt beer. The recent guidance covers who can destroy spoilt beer, how long the change applies, what you need to do as a brewer, and the evidence that HMRC needs. Please click here for more information.

 

9.  Love Leamington and Leam Delivers!

The www.loveleamington.com website is now live. We are constantly updating it so please let us know if you are not there and want to be. For now we are listing essential information on the homepage, but all town centre businesses who are trading online, via a website, facebook or other are listed within the site. We will be supporting this with social media promotion.

Please feel free to share it and send us your updated content such as:

  • Your store hours (where relevant)
  • Your current activities (online, delivery etc)
  • Online events you are hosting

As well as #LoveLeam, we are also using (hashtag) #LeamDelivers and I have attached a logo (in various formats) that you are welcome to use on or within your own material if you are delivering from Leam!

For those businesses still trading, COVID-19 Safe Distancing Floor Stickers are sure to be delivered this week, so we will be in touch shortly.

Member Questions: We are actively exploring options on the following and would value a conversation if you are interested in these ideas:

  1. Supporting local deliveries with a car and driver who you can contact (note, we have had someone volunteer so need to establish the details)
  2. Offering ‘click and collect’ from multiple local stores from a centralised location
  3. Joining / promoting a local scheme that would enable you to sell certain products online (if you don’t already and /or wish to focus on certain products in a collective way). Examples include ShopAppy(Video) and Your Local Delivery. All of these have their pros and cons so we are interested to gauge interest if you have time.

 

10.  Further Business Support 

Other advice and support from previous emails can be found on our website by clicking these links:

Specific Information relating to Grants:

Alternatively, please join our Leamington Town Centre Facebook Group if you haven’t already. We will also post updates on the BID Leamington Facebook Page – and the Royal Leamington Spa Town Centre Facebook page is where we will showcase what you are now doing.

Please keep in touch and share your ideas with us, as we are stronger together.

Best wishes and stay safe,
Steph and Alison.