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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 24 April 2020

Vital transport routes for freight and people kept open through Coronavirus support package
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a multi-million pound support package to keep the flow of goods and services running smoothly in and out of the UK and around the country throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at today’s Downing Street press conference, he announced a raft of measures, including:

  • support for critical routes between Britain and the European mainland – click here
  • up to £17 million for critical routes between Northern Ireland and Great Britain – click here
  • up to £10.5 million for lifeline ferry and freight services to the Isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles – click here

The funding will ensure the ongoing supply of critical goods into the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, with up to 31 routes eligible for support, subject to discussions with operators.

Mr Shapps told the press conference that the UK is working closely alongside French and Irish partners and today pledged in a joint statement to “strengthen partnership and share best practices”, to ensure the continued movement of freight across the continent. Click here to view the statement in full.

The freight and passenger support package covers:

  • Twenty-six routes between Britain, France, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden, including Eurotunnel
  • Seven routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • Routes to the Isle of Wight
  • The Penzance-Scilly ferry

The Transport Secretary also announced thousands of volunteers, vehicles, aircraft and ships from the transport sector have been placed on standby in a new ‘Transport Support Unit’ (TSU) to assist frontline responders during the crisis across the whole of the UK. They will be able to distribute packages to vulnerable people and essential medical supplies and PPE to hospitals and care homes.

He said: “Today’s action will help ensure all parts of the UK have the capacity they need and it shows how this government is acting to protect the transport links the country relies on.

“Now more than ever we need to work closely together, and the new Transport Support Unit stands ready to help our frontline staff and deliver crucial supplies.”

High Street shops to be protected from aggressive rent collection and asked to ‘pay what they can’
High street shops and other companies under strain will be protected from aggressive rent collection and asked to pay what they can during the coronavirus pandemic, the Business Secretary has pledged.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said that while the majority of landlords and tenants are working well together to reach agreements on debt obligations, some landlords have been putting tenants under undue pressure by using aggressive debt recovery tactics.

To stop these unfair practices, the government will temporarily ban the use of statutory demands and winding up orders where a company cannot pay their bills due to coronavirus, to ensure they do not fall into deeper financial strain.

The government is also laying secondary legislation to provide tenants with more breathing space to pay rent by preventing landlords using Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) unless they are owed 90 days of unpaid rent.

This will further safeguard the high street and millions of jobs by helping to protect them from permanent closure during this time. However, while landlords are urged to give their tenants the breathing space needed, the government calls on tenants to pay rent where they can afford it or what they can in recognition of the strains felt by commercial landlords too.

Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, said: “I know that like all businesses they are under pressure, but I would urge them to show forbearance to their tenants. I am also taking steps to ensure the minority of landlords using aggressive tactics to collect their rents can no longer do so while the COVID-19 emergency continues.”

Latest information and updates

  • Furloughed workers planning to take paid parental or adoption leave will be entitled to pay based on their usual earnings rather than a furloughed pay rate. Click here for more information.
  • Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Thérèse Coffey Statement on COVID-19 at an Extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit on the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for more information.
  • Maritime and Coastguard Agency guidance for seafarers. Click here for more information.
  • Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) gave an update from its COVID-19 Taskforce, set up to monitor and respond to consumer and competition problems arising from the pandemic. Click here for more information.
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for Community Interest Companies (CICs) updated. Click here for more information.

Resources to support your business

DASA (Defence And Security Accelerator)
The Defence and Security Accelerator is part of the Ministry of Defence. We provide funding to help innovators develop solutions to Defence and Security problems. At present, we have a £1m fund to support innovation related to COVID19 and have accelerated our review processes to turn proposals around rapidly. If you have a potential innovation, you can submit an outline and request a discussion with your regional Innovation Partner through our website – click here.

DASA has a wide rage of competitions and offers of funding open to businesses including COVID-19 – click here to find out more.

Government Coronavirus Business Support Hub
You can go here to find out all the latest information about what funding and support is available for your business, managing your business during coronavirus and business closures. There is also a new ‘support finder’ tool (available here) to help businesses easily determine what financial support is available to them during the coronavirus pandemic through a quick and simple online questionnaire. You can find out more about the tool here.

Government Coronavirus Business Support Whatsapp
The government has also launched a Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp which is now updated with business support advice. Text ‘hi’ to 07860064422 via Whatsapp and there are business support measures highlighted under option 5 with the relevant links to pages. Click here for more information.

Government Business support helpline
Contact the government’s business support helpline for free advice

Phone: 0300 456 3565
Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm

HMRC Helpline
HMRC have online help set up to help businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to coronavirus.

The best way to get help from HMRC on any topic is to contact them online – click here. Alternatively, you can call them on 0800 0159 559

Government departments are hosting a series of webinars to help businesses understand the support available:

  • for topics that cover supporting and retaining staff and the self-employed, register to attend future webinars here or watch recorded sessions here
  • for international trade, register here

Coronavirus Business Support blog
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have created the Coronavirus Business Support Blog to help business get the support they need to help with the impact of coronavirus. Click here to find out more.

Find a Job Service
If your business needs more workers as a result of COVID-19, such as those in food logistics, preparation and retail, post vacancies on Find a Job – click here.

Coronavirus support from Business Representative Organisations and Trade Associations
Business Representative Organisations and Trade Associations are providing coronavirus related  support for specific sectors. Click here to access the full list.

Can your business offer Coronavirus support?

Can your business offer further support?
The UK Government is looking for businesses who can offer support in multiple areas and has set up an online tool where businesses can register. To offer support click here.

Further support from our Growth Hub

Our Growth Hub offers a completely free and impartial service Our business navigators are available for free discussions via phone, webchat or email to answer your questions and concerns, as well as point you in the right direction for external or government advice.

If you would like to receive direct support from your local business navigators please complete our Business Support form and indicate what support you are interested in and how COVID-19 has affected you so far.

For Essex, Southend and Thurrock, click here
For Kent and Medway, click here
For East Sussex, click here

Have your say

This is the last chance to complete our short survey to help us understand how Coronavirus and the government’s response to the crisis has impacted businesses in our area. Click here to take the survey.

We will be sharing the full result of the survey with you in the coming days. The results so far are available and can be viewed on our website – click here.