I hope that you are all keeping safe and well and coping with the continued lockdown. The most stringent measures will be with us for at least the next few weeks and it seems that some form of social distancing will be with us for some time to come.
There are, however, positives – infection and death rates are falling, showing that the sacrifices we are all making are having a positive effect. Vaccine trials are starting both in the UK and elsewhere and one of those will find that magic cure and allow us to return to normal, also testing is being extended, which will help us get out and about more freely.
Most of you will have seen the tweaks to the government finance schemes, which have been reported in the news, but I thought that I would just highlight a few points in relation to those:
- The furlough scheme has been extended so that payments will now be made until the 30 June 2020. Whether it is extended beyond that will need to be seen as it is clearly going to be the case that some industries will take time to get back up to speed even after the relaxation of social distancing.
- The government furlough scheme application process opened on Monday. If you’ve not already got in your application, you can do so now. Follow the link below for guidance on how to do that:
140,000 applications were made on the first day (87,000 of those in the first hour!) benefiting 1.3 million employees nationally. We are told that payments should be processed within six working days of making the application. I know that a lot of businesses will be relying on that payment for their payroll at the end of April. Please do get in touch if payments are not being received as expected and we can feed that information back.
- The government closed a loophole whereby a few aggressive landlords were using statutory demands to pursue unpaid rent. I hope that none of you have been affected by those. Landlords are already unable to take forfeiture proceedings until the 30 June or later if the government extends that. It is important during this process that landlords and tenants work collaboratively together. Again, if you are experiencing problems in that regard, please do get in touch.
- I remain concerned that the government has not yet closed the loophole in their finance package to allow family businesses which are set up as Limited companies to claim in the same way as the self employed. If you or business colleagues are affected by that, I would urge you to get in contact with me as it would be good to give some specific examples where the measures are unfairly impacting those businesses via our chamber connections.
- We raised with the British Chamber our concern that the way in calculating the payments due to self-employed who earn their income through a seasonally dependent business was unfair. There is now an opportunity to provide feedback to the government to those in the tourism industry. Please complete the survey and circulate to any friends you have in that sector.
- The government is considering increasing their guarantee for interest free loans of up to £25,000 from 80%-100%. The feedback that I see is that only a small percentage (we are told 2% nationally) of business are using the government loans scheme. If you have any comments on why you are not taking up the opportunity or if you have not been able to get through the process, I would like to hear your feedback so that we can pass on your experiences.
In the meantime, stay safe and healthy.