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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 6 May 2020

Social distancing plan being developed for town centres
Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced his department will be helping local communities and town centres recover from the COVID-19 lockdown.

Previewing Boris Johnson’s anticipated ‘exit roadmap’, which is due to be announced on Sunday, he told today’s Downing Street press conference that his department was already looking at:

  • How public transport can be made safer
  • How people can walk or cycle to work
  • Creating more room in town centres as social distancing continues.

“We want to ensure appropriate and safe social distancing” so people have the confidence to get back to work, Mr Jenrick said. He added local economies would need a “plan to restart and recover”.

At Prime Minister’s Questions earlier this afternoon, Boris Johnson confirmed a “massive plan” for the country’s future would be announced on Sunday, with some changes coming into effect the following day. He also, when responding to a question from Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer, promised the public would not be asked to go back to work until a “robust national plan” was in place, which included access to sufficient PPE.

Mr Jenrick said the government would also be working on how the leisure, transport and manufacturing sectors could operate, guided by the scientific advice.

“We will be informing these plans with our own detailed work in areas such as: how workplaces from factories to construction sites to offices can be adapted; how outdoor spaces, leisure and businesses from parks to high streets to markets can be managed; and how public transport networks from the tube to trams to buses can operate,” he said.

“In each case, guided by scientific and medical advice, we want to ensure appropriate and safe social distancing, providing the public with the confidence to return to work and to return to public spaces and public transport knowing that it is always safe to do so.

“We cannot, and will not, let this pandemic stop us providing vital social and economic support.”

COVID-19: Firms ready to restart within three weeks, say Chambers
Most firms believe they could be ready to restart business with just three weeks’ notice, according to the latest British Chambers of Commerce Coronavirus weekly survey of firms.

The survey suggests that businesses that offer services to other business are the most ready, with two-thirds saying they would need less than one week or no notice at all to restart operations.

“Businesses’ ability to restart quickly varies by company size and by sector,” said BCC director general Dr Adam Marshall.

Fewer than half of firms serving consumers said they were confident of being ready that quickly.

“It will be crucial for the government to maintain and evolve support for businesses, to give as many firms as possible the chance to navigate a phased return to work,” said Dr Marshall.

Over 69,000 loans approved in the first day of the Bounce Back Loan Scheme
More than 69,000 Bounce Back Loans worth over £2 billion have been approved during the first 24 hours of the scheme, the Chancellor has announced (read more here).

The seven largest lenders (Barclays, Danske, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS, Santander and Virgin Money) received more than 130,000 Bounce Back Loan Scheme applications on the first day of the scheme (May 4). Over 69,000 of these have been approved on the first day, and lenders are working hard to process and approve the rest as quickly as possible.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said: “Small businesses will be the driving force of our recovery from the pandemic, creating jobs and securing economic growth.

“These loans will help them bounce back from this crisis – getting money fast – so it’s great to see more than 69,000 business benefitting in just the first day. It’s vital this speedy progress continues in the days and weeks ahead.”

For more information on applying for a Bounce Back Loan, click here.

New funding to support dairy farmers through coronavirus
A new fund will enable eligible dairy farmers in England to access up to £10,000 each to help them overcome the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The new funding (click here to find out more) will help support dairy farmers – who together continue to produce over 40 million litres of milk every day – who have seen decreased demand for their products as bars, restaurants and cafes have had to close.

Eligible dairy farmers will be entitled to up to £10,000 each, to cover 70% of their lost income during April and May to ensure they can continue to operate and sustain production capacity without impacts on animal welfare.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Our dairy industry plays a crucial role in feeding our nation and we are doing all we can to ensure they are properly supported during this time. We will continue to stand alongside our dairy farmers through this difficult period.”

The announcement comes as the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has today launched a new £1 million marketing campaign to increase consumption of milk in UK households. Click here to find out more.

Latest information and updates

Update on Fisheries Response Fund: support for aquaculture businesses
Update on the support for aquaculture businesses under the Fisheries Response Fund is available to view here.

Dedicated app for social care workers launched
A new dedicated app for the adult social care workforce in England has been launched to support staff through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic – click here.

ESFA: Business Update
The Education and Skills Funding Agency’s monthly round-up of apprenticeship information and news for businesses is available here.

Business rates revaluation postponed
A revaluation of business rates will no longer take place in 2021 to help reduce uncertainty for firms affected by the impacts of coronavirus. Click here for more information.

Case studies: remote education practice for schools during coronavirus (COVID-19)
Examples of practice for remote education from schools and academies across England are available here.

Coronavirus support from Business Representative Organisations and Trade Associations
Details for the British Soft Drinks Association and the Road Haulage Association added here.

Ask a question at a coronavirus press conference
Find out how you can ask the government a question at the daily coronavirus press conference here.

Testing for all workers

Eligibility for COVID-19 testing has been expanded to all workers who have to leave their home in order to work. People can self-refer, or be referred by their employer. Details can be found here.

HMRC Webinars: online support for businesses

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
  • for small businesses, register here
  • for changes to reporting, regulation and tax, register here

Additional webinars to support your business
Government departments are hosting a series of free webinars to help businesses understand the support available including:

  • Thursday 7 May – Managing your business during coronavirus: reporting, regulations and tax. Click here to register. 
  • Multiple dates – Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – How to make a claim. Click here to register. 
  • Multiple dates – Coronavirus COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme. Click here to register.

Keep up to date with all the latest available webinars here.

Help shine a light on the stories of key workers

The government is asking businesses to tell them about key workers they know who are helping to keep the UK moving during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Please fill in this online form for key workers in the following sectors: manufacturing, construction, consumer goods, scientists and researchers, servicing, postal workers, oil, gas, electricity, water, sewage and chemical workers.

Resources to support your business

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 gov.uk 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

Webinars
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.