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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 13 May 2020

Housing Secretary sets out plan to ‘reopen,  restart and renew’ housing market
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has pledged to ‘Keep Britain building’ as a boost to the country’s economy at today’s Downing Street press conference.

He announced a series of measures (click here to view) to unlock the housing market, including:

  • allowing builders to agree more flexible construction site working hours up to 9pm at night Monday to Saturday with their local council, which would involve staggering builders’ arrival times, easing pressure on public transport
  • enabling local councils and developers to publicise planning applications through social media instead of having to rely on posters and leaflets, helping to unblock the service
  • support for smaller developers by allowing them to defer payments to local councils, helping those struggling with their cash flow while ensuring communities still receive funding towards local infrastructure in the longer term
  • kickstarting the planning system by encouraging it to make greater use of digital technology, restarting site visits and holding virtual hearings of planning applications to ensure the planning system can resume – click here for more information.

The Housing Secretary said the housing market reboot was essential for a vibrant housing market and critical for the government’s planned “first homes programme” later this year, which will offer a 30% discount for key workers.

He added that more than 100 organisations had already signed up to a new Charter (click here to view) launched by the government and the Home Builders Federation, which helps construction sites reopen in line with latest health and safety guidance.

“This is the most comprehensive restarting of an industry in first phase of our roadmap,” he said. “History tells us that in every economic recovery in modern British life the housing market has been key to recovery and revival.

“As Housing Secretary, I will do everything I can to support the millions of people employed in construction and housing in order to help the sector bounce back while prioritising their safety and wellbeing.

“Today we reopen, restart and renew the housing marketing and construction industry to protect live, save jobs and begin rebuilding our industry.”

In addition, from today (May 13) anyone in England can move home if they follow new guidance, available here.

Roadmap taskforces to plan how closed sectors can reopen safely
Five new ministerial-led taskforces have been set up to develop plans for how and when closed sectors can reopen safely, following publication of the UK’s roadmap to rebuild Britain. Each taskforce will lead on developing new COVID-19 secure guidelines for the reopening of public places and businesses, where and when it is safe to do so. The taskforces will look at the following sectors:

  • pubs and restaurants
  • non-essential retail
  • recreation and leisure, including tourism, culture and heritage, libraries, entertainment and sport
  • places of worship, including faith, community and public buildings
  • international aviation, reflecting the unique challenges that sector is facing.

As part of the science-led approach, each taskforce will work across Government and engage with key stakeholders in public health, industry, trade unions and devolved administrations to:

ensure that COVID-19 secure guidelines are developed in line with the phased approach and public health directions, building on the existing guidance and providing intelligence and sector-specific expert input

agree and ensure alignment of all relevant sectoral guidance

provide key sector stakeholders direct access to Ministers to shape the guidance.

More information is available here.

Government to support businesses through Trade Credit Insurance guarantee
Businesses with supply chains which rely on Trade Credit Insurance and who are experiencing difficulties maintaining cover due to Coronavirus will get support from the government, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen has announced.

Trade Credit Insurance provides cover to hundreds of thousands of business to business transactions, particularly in non-service sectors, such as manufacturing and construction. It insures suppliers selling goods against the company they are selling to defaulting on payment, giving businesses the confidence to trade with one another. But due to Coronavirus and businesses struggling to pay bills, they risk having credit insurance withdrawn, or premiums increasing to unaffordable levels.

To prevent this from happening, the government will temporarily guarantee business-to-business transactions currently supported by Trade Credit Insurance, ensuring the majority of insurance coverage will be maintained across the market.

The guarantee will be delivered through a temporary reinsurance agreement with insurers currently operating in the market. More details are available here.

Additional updates and guidance

Additional £600m funding for care homes
Speaking at prime minister’s questions today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he could announce a “further £600m for infection control in care homes”. Homes secretary Robert Jenrick subsequently tweeted that the funding would be for councils and “focused on adult social care”. Further details are expected soon.

Angling restrictions eased
You can now fish on your own, with your household, or with one other person while adhering to social distancing rules and staying two metres apart at all times, due to updated government guidance on outdoor activitie, available here.

Government expands expert team to rapidly roll out coronavirus test and trace programme
The government has announced the expansion of the expert team leading on the rapid nationwide roll-out of the coronavirus (COVID-19) test and trace programme. Find out more here.

COVID-19: safer public places – urban centres and green spaces
New guidance for the owners and operators of urban centres and green spaces to help social distancing is available here.

Closing certain businesses and venues in England
Guidance has been updated to reflect current regulations – click here to view.

Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do
Frequently asked questions on what you can and can’t do during the coronavirus outbreak have been updated. This guidance applies in England. Click here to view.

Essential funding for training providers secured

Relief scheme responds to joint feedback from SELEP and national LEP Network for training providers during the COVID-19 crisis

Training providers have been able to apply to a new relief scheme (which closed on 3rd May) to provide some of the funding they need to maintain a strong skills sector supply chain during this challenging time.

SELEP Skills Lead, Louise Aitken, worked with the national LEP Network to write to Secretary of State Gavin Williamson on behalf of England’s 38 LEPs. Click here to read more.