COVID-19 Information Update: 6 April

COVID-19 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.

Good News on Grants! Plus Additional Info

Good News on Grants! Plus Additional Info

Good news on Grants!

Late this afternoon we received notification from Warwick District Council that they have begun the process of distributing grant funds, which is sooner than expected. Some businesses may also have received notification directly. We are advised that this is a manual process and the team will make their way through the list of eligible businesses as quickly and securely as they can. I will continue to give updates on progress as needed. Details of eligibility are on our website and theirs.
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.

Business Survey (Please complete)

We are working with a number of partner organisations to understand business concerns and lobby for additional support.
Below is a link to a survey that I would be very grateful if you could complete. The questions were formulated at a regional level and we have adapted them. Your answers will only be seen by Stephanie Kerr, Executive Director (BID Leamington), 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, so they can understand the challenges you may be facing. All personal data will be destroyed once it has been collated.

Love Leamington & 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.
As well as #LoveLeam, we are also using #LeamDelivers. Please let us know if you would like our new Leam Delivers Logo to use on or within your own material if you are delivering from Leam!

Business Support

Over the last week we have been supporting our members on a number of business critical matters. To date we have arranged professional HR, Legal and Financial advice at no cost to the business, and are arranging support for those who need help with property negotiations. Please get in touch if any of these things are worrying you and we will try our best to help.
We will be providing you with a more detailed update in the next day or two. This will cover topics such as the job retention scheme (80% wage relief), the stop on evictions, business critical issues we are lobbying on, emerging guidance e.g. disposing of beer, BID activities that you can get involved in and ideas we are developing.

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

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!
#LoveLeam #LeamDelivers 
WDC Registration Opens for Business Grants

WDC Registration Opens for Business Grants

Please be advised that Warwick District Council (WDC) have now posted a link online for businesses who are eligible for the government £10,000 and £25,000 grants to register their details.

Please see here: https://www.warwickdc.gov.uk/info/20827/coronavirus/1553/coronavirus_information_for_businesses/2

Please note: At the time of writing (March 26th), we are advised that WDC are not yet in receipt of the funds. However, they are in the process of collating business information so that once they are in a position to distribute the funds, this can be done as efficiently as possible. The distribution part of the process will likely begin week commencing Monday 6th April. Of course, if it can be done sooner then it will. Please bookmark their webpage for updates.

Please also note: this relates to those businesses with a Rateable Value under £51,000 that meet the eligibility criteria detailed below. The grant funding that is awarded to eligible businesses, does not have to be paid back.

Eligibility Criteria and Further Information

In general, this grant scheme incudes:

  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief;
  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.

Detailed guidance and criteria for this can be found at this link and below:

  • The Small Business Grants Fund (£10K) (SBGF): Hereditaments included in this scheme are those which on the 11 March 2020 were eligible for relief under the business rate Small Business Rate Relief Scheme (including those with a Rateable Value between £12,000 and £15,000 which receive tapered relief).
  • The Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (25K) (RHLGF): Hereditaments which on the 11 March 2020 had a rateable value of less than £51,000 and would have been eligible for a discount under the business rates Expanded Retail Discount Scheme had that scheme been in force for that date are eligible for the grant. Please see below.
  • PDF Document

Details of the Expanded Retail Discount 2020/21:

Local Authority Guidance can be found below. This details the type of businesses that are included in the rates relief scheme – and are eligible for the grants detailed above. Please note this was extended yesterday to include a wider range of businesses, such as estate agents, lettings agents, betting shops etc. Further details of the types of business that are included can be found at this link and below.

  • PDF Document  – 02.04.2020
  • Please note No 16 in this document details who are NOT included e.g. Financial services, Medical services, Professional services, and Post office sorting offices.

Finally, the government has summarised some common questions and answers by clicking here.

Please let me know if you have any questions that we can help you explore. Reflecting member feedback, over the coming days we will be doing further work on the issue of commercial rent protection as we do not feel the recent announcement goes quite far enough for those having difficult conversations. We welcome further feedback on this and I will also be in touch with more information on wage relief soon.

Resources are Focused on Business Support

Resources are Focused on Business Support

BID Leamington is focusing all of its resources on supporting the town centre with the impact of Coronavirus in light of recent announcements about business closures.

As well as highlighting latest government guidance, including measures to help mitigate the financial impact, it is reaching out to businesses to fully understand their needs in order to lobby for additional support.

It is also re-launching online platforms to support business and community activities.

Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said: “Whilst we welcome the government’s support measures, it is clear that more is needed, for instance, around immediate access to financial help, and commercial lease issues facing independents.

“It is therefore vital that we fully understand business needs so that we can feedback to our MP, government and relevant industry bodies about what additional support is required.

“There is a really strong sense of community in Leamington and already many examples of people working together, so we are doing all we can to help businesses and the wider community support this collective effort and adapt to these unprecedented challenges.

“Many businesses are showing their resilience and ingenuity, for instance by extending their services to support food deliveries to vulnerable people, offering online events, virtual pubs, video and phone shopping, and offering collect and delivery, and we would really encourage local people where possible to support them now more than ever.

“We have recently re-launched two websites to showcase these efforts, and will be constantly updating our social media with information on how town centre businesses are adapting and their new service offerings, so that we can all find out what is happening and get involved.”

People can visit www.loveleamington.com and www.tasteleamington.com to find out the latest information on Leamington town centre businesses including those also trading online, and offering collection or home delivery.

All town centre businesses can visit www.bidleamington.com for information and support, and are urged to make contact with the BID team for advice at info@bideaminton.com.

COVID-19 Information Update: 23 March

COVID-19 Information Update: 23 March

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:

  1. New Shop Opening Requirements
  2. Home Delivery Advice
  3. Commercial Rent Protection Update
  4. Business Grants and Loans
  5. Insurance Reminder
  6. Crime and Fraud Notice
  7. VAT Deferral Information
  8. 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: wrcisouth@wrci.org.uk

 

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.

Key points:

  • 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:

Other helpful sources of information:

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.

GOV.UK Information Update: 20 March

GOV.UK Information Update: 20 March

What a week. These are certainly unusual times, but open or closed, please be reassured we are working on ways to support our town centre, its businesses and the wider community – so please read on. This note includes the latest announcements and some emerging ideas.

To summarise, the March 20th announcements included: 

No doubt there are mixed feelings about these announcements and a range of new questions come to mind, which we will endeavour to understand over the coming week.

Latest Business Support Details – Eligibility & How to Access

The ‘UK GOV Support for Businesses – Updated March 20’ document, provides helpful details, including ‘eligibility’ and ‘how to access’ information on the ‘Support for Businesses’ package. It can also be viewed by clicking here.

This document includes the latest information on:

  • the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (employee wage relief)
  • deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
  • Statutory Sick Pay relief package for SMEs
  • the 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England (you may have recently received your bills?)
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief (rateable Value under £15,000)
  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
  • a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

As we find out more about these things we will be in touch.

Emerging Ideas

We are not sure what is around the corner, but we are still exploring / developing ideas and we welcome your thoughts. This includes:

  1. Love Leamington Online – Showcasing local businesses who are trading online or adopting new trading practices via loveleamington.com (Please note, this is ‘live’ but work in progress. We will promote this when it is ready. Please get touch if you would like your profile amended or added? (we have not quite got everyone yet).
  2. Taste Leamington – We are updating the tasteleamington.com to feature businesses who are now offering ‘Take-away’ and / or delivery. This includes identifying business who are using Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat. Please let us know if your details need to be added / amended?
  3. Supporting Those Who are not Online – We are exploring a localised online platform that you could post your products on, sell them and arrange collection or delivery etc. Please get in touch if this interests you?
  4. Leam Delivers! – We are exploring the idea of offering a home delivery service to support local businesses. Please get in touch if this interests you? We are looking to understand the logistics of this asap.
  5. What’s App You Say? – Would you like to be part of a Leam retailers ‘Whats-App’ Group? This could be focused on sharing ideas, support and information with each other. Please let us know if this interests you? If there is enough interest, we will get it organised.
  6. Join the Conversation – 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 let us know if any of these things interest you and we will be in touch to discuss further. Please also note, we are conscious that government guidance on working in town / at home may change, so bear with us as we try to work around any future changes that may impact us all.

Local Community Support Group

Some local Leamington and Warwick people have set up a support group here: https://warwickleamingtoncovidhelp.wordpress.com/. This also links to a Facebook page where people are looking for support finding products etc. There may be opportunities for you to help if your business stocks certain products people are looking for or is doing deliveries.

And Finally

We will continue to keep you updated on grant funding, employee support and business critical matters are soon as the information becomes available. You can also find previous updates on our website:

Please keep us updated with how things are going for you and we will be in touch again soon. Stay safe, look after each other, and enjoy your Sunday / Mother’s Day.

Common Questions & Info: 19 March

Common Questions & Info: 19 March

After speaking to a number of you, we have attempted to answer some common questions below.

We will update some of the answers as the relevant information comes available. Please note, this is generic advice and we recognise your individual circumstances may vary. Please reach out to us if you need more detailed advice and we will help you find additional support.

The following questions are covered below:

  1. What support is being offered to businesses by the UK government?
  2. When will the grants and loans be available?
  3. How do I find out the rateable value of my property?
  4. What does it mean by ‘business rates holiday’ e.g. do we have to pay this back?
  5. What is the difference between a grant and a loan?
  6. Where can I find details of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme?
  7. How can I manage my upcoming VAT and HMRC payments?
  8. Can I have advice on staff HR issues such as adjusting hours?
  9. Where can I find more information?

 

1.  What support is being offered to businesses by the UK government?

Recent government guidance can be found here:

In summary, this covers (as per the website above):

  • a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England. Please see eligibility criteria here.
  • a statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cash-flow pressures by seeking additional finance
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

Plus – ‘Business Cash Grants’ for businesses – as per the following criteria. 

Rateable Value less than £15,000

  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief.

Rateable Value between £15,001 and £51,000

  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.

More detailed eligibility criteria can now be found here (updated March 20).

 

2.  When will the grants and loans be available?

Business Cash Grants: We are still unclear as to when these will be available, though the government website says that funding will be given to Local Authorities in early April. We are also unsure as to what information you will need to provide. We will update you as soon as we know.

Loans: It is expected that the new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will become available in week commencing 23 March 2020 (see below for details).

 

3.  How do I find out the rateable value of my property?

Please visit the VOA website at the link below and follow the instructions.

 

4.  What does it mean by ‘business rates holiday’ e.g. do we have to pay this back

The ‘business rates holiday’ means that should you qualify; you will not have to pay business rates for the 2020 to 2021 tax year (starting April). This will not have to be paid back. This should be applied automatically by the Local Authority (Warwick District Council).

 

5.  What is the difference between a grant and a loan?

The grant funding (as outlined above) does not have to be paid back, while the loan funding is borrowed so will need to be paid back.

 

6.  Where can I find details of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme?

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is being delivered by the British Business Bank via local lenders. Details are here:

It is due to become available the week commencing 23rd of March and will offer more attractive terms than typically available.

The scheme provides the lender with a government-backed guarantee against the outstanding facility balance, potentially enabling a ‘no’ credit decision from a lender to become a ‘yes’. NB – the borrower always remains 100% liable for the debt. The Government will also cover the first 6 (now 12 months – updated March 20) of interest payments, so businesses will benefit from lower initial repayments. The business remains liable for repayments of the capital. The maximum value of a facility provided under the scheme will be £5 million pounds (the original announcement suggested a maximum value of £1.2 million.)

 

7.  How can I manage my upcoming VAT and HMRC payments?

We urge you to call HMRC and discuss this. We understand you may need to wait on the line for a little while, but it is worth it.

The helpline number is 0800 0159 559 and lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm and on Saturday, 8am to 4pm.

Businesses are being offered a time-limited deferral period on HMRC liabilities (e.g. VAT, PAYE and corporation tax) owed and a pre-agreed time period to pay these back. HMRC will also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business experiences administrative difficulty contacting HMRC or paying taxes due to COVID-19.

 

8.  Can I have advice on staff HR issues such as adjusting hours

Some business owners may be having discussions with staff in respect to how to manage HR resources during this period. This may be if a staff member is not sick or presenting symptoms, and not eligible for statutory sick pay, but the business is on reduced hours/services or closed. We are arranging the services of a professional HR consultant to support you with this. We will cover the cost of the initial advice and support. Please contact us if you would like this help? Please note, we are expecting the government to announce a support package for employees eminently so this may offer some relief (see March 20 Update).

 

9.  Where can I find more information? 

The FSB is a very helpful source of information and they have a FREE webinar available to members and non-members this Friday 20 March.

If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to pick up the phone. Alison and I are here and will do our very best to signpost you to the information you need as it becomes available. You can phone us on 01926 470634 or please email: info@bidleamington.com.

Business Update: 18 March

Business Update: 18 March

Like you, we have been monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and we appreciate that this will be impacting you, your business and staff in many different ways. We also understand that you have been facing a dizzying array of information, questions, uncertainty and worry.

Firstly, we wish to reassure you that we are refocusing our resources and energy entirely on how we can support you. This includes providing information to address any immediate concerns you may have around access to financial support as well as practical advice and strategies we can employ to support one another going forwards.

We know we need to think creatively and act in a decisive way, and we welcome your feedback. This will help us direct our activity and enable us to feedback to our MP and policy makers at a national level, to ensure the right kind of additional support is made available going forwards.

Emerging government advice can also be found below and is summarised alongside a number of other helpful sources.

In the meantime, we would very much like to hear about any new ways you are looking to serve your customers so that we can help you disseminate this information? This may be by offering online or phone purchases, deliveries or incentives, that we can compile and make accessible to a wider audience.

Business Support

Recent government guidance can be found here:

In summary, this covers:

  • a statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs
  • a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cash-flow pressures by seeking additional finance
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

Please note, we are awaiting advice from the Local Authority about how businesses can access this funding. We will update this page and email businesses as soon as we know. 

A number of other organisations also provide some very helpful advice:

  • Government Advice: This provides general advice about the virus, symptoms, protection and isolations measures for individuals and employees.
  • FSB Advice: This provides an excellent summary of common questions and concerns relating to running a small business.
  • Night Time Economy blog: This provides a summary of relevant information and guidance on health and safety, government support, insurance etc.
  • Coventry and Warwickshire Growth Hub: Updates, advice and support for all businesses.

Banks

We recommend that you contact your bank as soon as possible to discuss overdraft and lending options. We are however aware that some of you have already done this with mixed results. We will be making contact with local banks over the coming days and post relevant updates on this.

HMRC – Time to Pay Helpline

Businesses are being offered a time-limited deferral period on HMRC liabilities (e.g. VAT, PAYE and corporation tax ) owed and a pre-agreed time period to pay these back. HMRC will also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business experiences administrative difficulty contacting HMRC or paying taxes due to COVID-19.

The helpline number is 0800 0159 559 and lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm and on Saturday, 8am to 4pm.

Insurance 

We also recommend contacting your insurance provider to discuss your policy. We are however aware that this may be deemed to fall outside your cover. We welcome any feedback on your experiences with this so we can understand the scale of the issue.

Local Support Group / Community Cooperation  

A fantastic local support group has been established. This is a helpful way to stay connected to the wider community, swap ideas and get support and inspiration.

Going Forwards – BID Leamington Planning 

We are exploring a range of short and longer-term activities aimed at supporting our members during these challenging times. We will be circulating a survey in the coming days to understand what you will find most helpful and help us focus our resources. Actions that we are developing include:

Short Term actions:

  • Provide advice on what members can do to immediately and in the coming weeks.
  • Highlight measures businesses are using to engage with their customers on our website and social media channels e.g. ‘video-shopping’ and delivery etc. Please let us know.
  • Showcase the online offer on www.loveleamington.com and www.tasteleamington.com. These specifically highlight businesses with an online offer. Please let us know if you need to be added.
  • Move our Easter Egg hunt online – so eggs and clues will be hidden on the relevant profile pages of each business (as well as on the high street).
  • Exploring how we can support home delivery and click and collect services.
  • Collating best practice, providing inspiration and generally helping to foster the local community spirit.

Long Term actions:

  • A plan to welcome visitors back to the high street, recognising that we may be operating in a slightly changed environment.
  • Delivering competitions with prizes that can be redeemed in local businesses at a later date to showcase stores and maintain loyalty and engagement.

Public Information and Advice 

All Set for a Cracking Christmas!

All Set for a Cracking Christmas!

Leamington shoppers are in for a cracking Christmas with town centre businesses donating over £3,500 of prizes in a new giveaway to encourage people to buy local over the festivities.

Anyone making a purchase from a participating outlet will be given a Christmas Cracker Scratchcard with the chance to win one of the mystery prizes which have been donated by more than 50 businesses.

There are also hundreds of instant prizes of free coffee or cupcakes up for grabs around the town, plus ten per cent off selected full-priced items from participating businesses in January.

The Christmas Cracker Scratchcard has been organised by BID Leamington with the support of town centre businesses, and is among a host of attractions to draw in shoppers at their busiest time.

Alison Shaw, BID Leamington Project Manager, said: “We are very excited about what is on offer in Leamington this Christmas as we have so much planned to help make our town centre come alive for customers.

“Christmas is a critical time for our town centre businesses so it is important that we all work together and get behind them over the festive period to make sure Leamington is as magical as ever.

“Thanks to the generosity of businesses in the town centre, we have been able to put together this fantastic prize giveaway which we hope will reward customers and encourage more people to do their Christmas shopping locally.”

Along with the hugely-popular Lantern Parade on Sunday, December 1, BID Leamington is partnering with Royal Priors to stage a Santa Elf Workshop and a Virtual Reality Sleigh Ride to the North Pole in the shopping centre.

The Santa Elf Workshop will be open on selected days from Saturday, November 30 to Tuesday, December 24, and the Virtual Reality Sleigh Ride will be open on Saturday, November 23, Saturday, November 30 and Saturday, December 7, from 11am to 4pm.

There will also be the chance to meet Father Christmas in the Royal Priors on Saturday, December 14, Sunday, December 15, Saturday, December 21 and Sunday, December 22.

BID Leamington’s ‘Christmas Parking Angels’ will be back to help shoppers find spaces, offer maps and give information on all the events and attractions.  Free car parking is available for shoppers at Riverside House, Milverton Hill, on weekends.

Late night shopping begins on Thursdays from December 5, on top of the Yuletide Markets taking place every Sunday.

The Christmas Cracker Scratchcard runs from Monday, November 25 until Sunday, December 15 and full details can be found at www.royal-leamington-spa.co.uk/xmas-cracker.

For more information about all events and attractions taking place in Leamington town centre in the run-up to Christmas, visit www.royal-leamington-spa.co.uk.

PICTURE CAPTION: Pictured pulling the Christmas Cracker Scratchcard are, left to right, Alison Shaw (BID Leamington Project Manager) and Stephanie Kerr (BID Leamington Executive Director).

 

Introducing Meaningful Change Leamington

Introducing Meaningful Change Leamington

A ground-breaking initiative in Warwickshire to enable local communities to make a bigger impact on helping the homeless in their towns has been launched in Leamington.

Local charities and agencies working with the homeless and those at risk of being homeless in both towns have joined forces in a campaign called Meaningful Change, which aims to make more of a difference by providing a central focus for the public to pledge support. The campaign aims to make people more aware of the support services available in their towns, and how they can best help them by donating and volunteering.

Meaningful Change has been made possible with funding from the Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner, and Leamington and Stratford have worked together over the last year to devise the campaign and then tailor it to the specific needs of each town. Leamington and Stratford will operate their own campaigns, with individual websites providing information and an online platform for donations.

Philip Seccombe, Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Meaningful Change provides an easy platform for people to help support local charities working with people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless so that they get the right help and can avoid falling into the criminal justice system. It will also help the wider community understand the support that is available to tackle homelessness and how they can help through the donation of time, money or items.”

BID Leamington has played a key role in developing Meaningful Change Leamington, alongside local charities and Warwick District Council. In Leamington, a collective giving pot has been established for funds to be distributed between local charities to direct aid to those most in need. The town’s first fundraising unit for contactless donations has been installed at the Visitor Information Centre and another is due to be installed in the Royal Priors Shopping Centre this Christmas.

Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said: “The number of vulnerable people facing a range of challenges around the UK is increasing and this is no different locally.

“In Leamington, we are fortunate to have a wide range of around-the-clock support services and the work they do is incredible, but they need our support to help those people that the public may see sleeping rough, begging, or dealing with issues that are not so visible.

“As custodians of our town centre, BID Leamington is very much aware that businesses and their customers have genuine concerns about homelessness and want to know how they can best help. Meaningful Change will enable us all to make a bigger impact.”

The Leamington campaign website lists local support available including housing services, rehabilitation, food, emergency shelter, advice and training. It also highlights ways for the public to help through volunteering or donating time, items or money.

Jon Barnett, Community Support Officer at Warwick District Council, which operates the William Wallsgrove House hostel, said: “Warwick District Council is committed to ending homelessness in Leamington and across the district.

“We are pleased to be supporting the Meaningful Change initiative which is a welcome addition to the range of support services that our Housing and Safer Communities team provide to the most vulnerable in our community.”

In Leamington, the initiative is supported by a range of local charitable and voluntary organisations including Change Grow Live, ESH Works, Helping Hands, LWS Night Shelter, Leamington Night Shelter, P3 and The Salvation Army Way Ahead Project.

Funding that is raised through Meaningful Change Leamington, will be distributed between those organisations which have nominated specific areas where they wish to focus this financial support.

For more information, including a full list of charities and statutory support agencies involved in Meaningful Change Leamington, visit www.meaningfulchange.org.uk.

PICTURE CAPTION: Pictured at the launch of Meaningful Change Leamington outside the Visitor Information Centre are, from left to right, Jon Barnett (Warwick District Council), Ayyaz Ahmed (Warwick District Council), Chris Higgins (Helping Hands), Philip Seccombe (Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner), Sgt Trent McMurray (Warwickshire Police), Stephanie Kerr (BID Leamington), Aaron Greaves (Heart of England Community Foundation), Sue Verne (Helping Hands), Ljupka Stojanovska (The Salvation Army).