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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 14 May 2020

£2bn to ‘speed up’ essential rail and road infrastructure as a boost to UK economy
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced he wants to harness the country’s ability to adapt, innovate and speed up essential works to fix the country’s infrastructure for the future.

Speaking at today’s Downing Street briefing where he announced a £2 billion investment in roads and rail, the Transport Secretary revealed Network Rail and Highways England had carried out millions of pounds of repairs and improvements in record time while the country was in lockdown.

“We’ve somehow managed to do things in weeks that would normally take years,” he said.

He added that the government wants to “exploit” the drive to innovate to continue tackling challenges in the country’s transport system.

And he pledged he would address the bureaucracy which meant Britain’s infrastructure work is currently among the slowest and costliest in Europe.

The Transport Secretary said drivers and cyclists beginning to return to England’s streets would also benefit from a £1.7bn Transport Infrastructure Investment Fund to improve roads, repair bridges and fill in millions of potholes.

The package will target around 11 million ‘nuisance’ potholes. It will also see smaller improvements completed to upgrade local networks, such as enhancing road safety at key locations, the installation of priority bus lanes, and the creation of projects to help lock in improvements in air quality experienced during lockdown.

The government also outlined its vision (click here to view) to supercharge the electric car network by boosting the numbers of rapid chargepoints across England’s strategic road network. The vision aims to ensure every motorway service area will have a minimum of six ultra-rapid chargepoints by 2023. This means drivers will be able to charge their cars in around 15 minutes – three times faster than they can currently.

Mr Shapps added: “Both long term transport trends and present needs to level up means that infrastructure will be important in stimulating our recovery and supporting new jobs.

“Combining digital and infrastructure improvements can revive many of our small and medium sized towns which, over decades, have been left behind.

“It will be our reaction to adversity that will determine how we recover. We must harness our collective determination and innovation and in doing so, we can emerge stronger.”

Additional updates and guidance

COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
HMRC has published online guidance (click here to view) on the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme which includes information about who can use the scheme and the records employers must keep. HMRC is working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Details about when the new Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme can be accessed and when employers can make a claim will be announced as soon as possible.

Extension of temporary changes to AGM rules and wrongful trading liability
On May 14, the government announced that the temporary suspension of wrongful trading liability will now continue until 30 June while temporary measures to give companies and other bodies flexibility around Annual General Meetings (AGMs) and other meetings will be made retrospective to 26 March.

Reminder: Supporting your employees during coronavirus: domestic abuse
The order to stay at home can cause anxiety for those who are experiencing or feel at risk of domestic abuse. As an employer, you can play an important role in reassuring staff that they can still leave their home if they are experiencing domestic abuse and that there is still support available, including online support, helplines, refuges and the police. We encourage you to share this important message with staff using the information provided in the Home Office’s employer pack – click here to view.

Plans to safely restart, reopen and renew the housing market
The Housing Secretary has set out the plan to safely restart, reopen and renew the housing market. Anyone in England can move house if they follow new guidance on home moving during the coronavirus outbreak. Click here for more information.

Construction site working hours Q&A
The Government has published a written ministerial statement (click here to view) on planning and construction working hours. This statement expects local planning authorities in England to approve requests to extend construction working hours temporarily to ensure safe working in line with social distancing guidelines until 9pm, Monday to Saturday, unless there are very compelling reasons against this. Questions and answers on this announcement are available here.

How tests and testing kits for coronavirus (COVID-19) work
Information for members of the public, patients, professionals and industry about COVID-19 tests and testing kits, including how they work, the different types of tests and the specifications manufacturers need to follow is available. Find out more information here.

Attestation forms for travel to and within France
Information for UK nationals about which attestation form to use when travelling to and within France during the coronavirus (COVID-19) decree can be found here.

Business support grant funding – guidance for local authorities
Guidance for local authorities about the operation and delivery of the Local Authority Discretionary Fund has been published here.

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.

Business planning, recovery and COVID SECURE operations? Have your say

Take part in our Coronavirus Business Recovery Survey to let us know how you are preparing your business for the next phase in socially distanced and COVID-secure enterprise.

This is an opportunity to ensure that your views directly inform government thinking and their next steps and any future investments and programmes Government or South East LEP may develop, with partners across the South East to support our business communities.

Please take time to complete the survey, which should take no more than five minutes. Click here to complete the survey.