You will be aware the government has recently announced (March 23) much tighter measures to limit movement and ensure safe distances between people over the coming weeks. Please read on to find more about this as well as other questions and considerations we have encountered over the last few days.
This note includes information on:
- New Shop Opening Requirements
- Home Delivery Advice
- Commercial Rent Protection Update
- Business Grants and Loans
- Insurance Reminder
- Crime and Fraud Notice
- VAT Deferral Information
- Additional Help
1. New Shop Opening Requirements
To summarise, the March 23rd announcements included:
- The closure of all non-essential businesses and premises;
- Takeaway and delivery services may remain open and operational in line with guidance on Friday 20 March;
- Online retail is still open and encouraged and postal and delivery service will run as normal.
Retail and public premises which we expect to remain open must:
- Ensure a distance of two metres between customers and shop assistants; and
- Let people enter the shop only in small groups, to ensure that spaces are not crowded.
- Queue control is required outside of shops and other essential premises that remain open.
Details of who is permitted to be open and the associated exceptions. Please click here to access this.
2. Home Delivery Guidance
The ACS (Association of Convenience Stores) has provided some helpful guidance for retail and convenience businesses who are offering home delivery. This guidance is designed to provide reassurance to convenience store retailers who want to carry out local grocery deliveries to support people self-isolating. Pease click here to access this.
Please let us know if you are doing deliveries, take away or selling online?
We are putting relevant information about anyone who is trading online, delivering or take-away on www.loveleamington.com and www.tasteleamington.com . We aim to be promoting these websites from Wednesday. Please email us any images (landscape) or updates.
We also want to let people know what you are doing via our social media accounts – so please send us your content. Also, please see our previous update (March 20) about our ideas to stay connected and supported and let us know if you are interested.
3. Commercial Rent Protection Update
Numerous organisations and bodies have been lobbying the government for further protection to protect tenants and to relieve the burden of rental payments. Please click here for the latest government announcement on this.
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, included in the emergency Coronavirus Bill currently going through Parliament, will mean no business will be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment in the next 3 months. However, please note this does not remove the obligation to pay the rent at a later date and the guidance does not elaborate on how long you may take to pay outstanding rent. Also, please check your lease agreement to ensure you will not be charged punitive interest on the unpaid amount.
In the short term, we urge business owners to discuss their circumstances with their landlords. We welcome your feedback on these discussions as we appreciate that some landlords may be more forthcoming than others and we wish to ensure your experiences can be anonymously fed back to policy makers and the government.
4. Business Grants and Loans
We are in daily contact with Warwick District Council about this as we know businesses are eager to understand how they can access their grant funding. At this stage we understand funds will be available to Councils early April and a process of making contact will follow.
In the meantime, we understand that the Coronavirus Loan Scheme is now open. For more information please contact your bank or please click here.
These loans can be used as a short-term fix, until the grant subsidies come through. Businesses can consider how much they need with the knowledge that interest is paid by government for 12 months. After this time, we don’t know what the interest rates will be, but would expect lenders to be reasonable as for many, loans will be essential, particularly with rental payments, and staff costs, even where 80% will be paid by HMG furlough scheme.
We welcome any relevant feedback on your experiences with this.
5. Insurance Reminder
This is just a reminder that if you are now working from home or undertaking a delivery service where previously this was not the case you should notify your insurance company of changed circumstances.
6. Crime and Fraud Notice
We are advised that local CCTV is fully operational. Security in the Royal Priors Shopping Centre will also be maintained. The National Business Crime Centre advice for businesses who are both open and temporarily closed, can be viewed by clicking here.
We are aware that new types of scams are circulating via email and online. Please be cautious about clicking links or opening attachments from unknown sources and do not give over personal data unless you are sure of and trust the source / recipient.
Please note, we are in the process of rolling out a new ‘Littoralis DISC’ crime prevention system as a part of the Warwickshire Retail Crime Initiative (WRCI). If you are a part of this scheme you will have recently received new registration information. If you are not a member but wish to find out more please contact: Jared Seal – Kenilworth, Leamington Spa, Stratford Upon Avon and Warwick. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
7. VAT Deferral Information
The following information has been provided by Burgis and Bullock, chartered accountants and business advisors.
The COVID-19 deferral of VAT payments in the period 20th March to 30th June gives an immediate boost to cash flow as taxpayers will not need to make a VAT payment during this period. However, in the absence of anything explicitly to the contrary, everything else is “business as usual” and VAT returns must still be submitted on time.
- No need to make the VAT payments due between 20th March and 30th. Payments due before and after that period still payable on due date.
- Affects VAT returns for periods ending February (due 7th April), March (due 7th May) and April (due 7th June) and payments on account due at the end of March, April, May and June.
- Refunds and reclaims will continue to be paid to taxpayers as normal.
- Payments deferred need to be paid at the end of the 2021 “tax year”. It isn’t clear whether this is the VAT tax year (31st March, 30th April or 31th May depending on your VAT return period ends) or the direct tax year 5th.
- Businesses should contact their banks if they pay by direct debit to make sure there is nothing specific for them to do to take advantage of this offer as HMRC may request payment automatically.
- All UK businesses, including VAT registered charities, Trusts and sole proprietors are eligible but this may not apply to UK VAT registered foreign businesses unless they trade through a UK entity.
- No specific application required.
More generally, any business experiencing difficulty in making its VAT payments should contact HMRC to discuss time to pay proposals as soon as possible rather than letting liabilities build up. HMRC will be open to all sensible offers in these difficult times.
The HMRC helpline number is 0800 0159 559 and lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm and on Saturday, 8am to 4pm.
8. Additional Help
The government have set up a business helpline: https://www.gov.uk/business-support-helpline
Business Support Helpline (England)
Telephone: 0300 456 3565
Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm
Previous BID Leamington Updates on this Website:
- Business Update: March 18
- Common Questions and Information: March 19
- GOV.UK Information Update: March 20
Other helpful sources of information:
- Coventry and Warwickshire Growth Hub: https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/service/coronavirus-outbreak-information-and-updates
- FSB: https://www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19.html
- CBI: https://www.cbi.org.uk/coronavirus-hub/support-for-business/
- ACAS: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus
Of course, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are happy to research any questions you have as we understand this is an incredibly busy and stressful time. We are also very keen to get your feedback, so that we can continue to work with our partners to lobby for additional support.