Coronavirus - (COVID-19)

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Visit our Coronavirus page for the latest advice and guidance.

Help available for businesses

Support and information for businesses and employers

Please be aware that the information on this page will be changing regularly in line with new announcements. If you would like to receive business updates by email, please let us know at [email protected]

You will be aware that the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020 made it an offence for certain types of business premises to be open. Details of which businesses are expected to close and where there are exceptions can be found on Government guidance on business closures - including which business sectors/types are expected to cease trading (updated).

Please be aware that you run the risk of being prosecuted for not closing your business premises as instructed. Both Local Authority and Police Officers will be monitoring and enforcing the provisions of the Regulations.

What Southend-on-Sea Borough Council can do

Small Business Grants Fund and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund - The council are planning to make Small Business Grants (£10k) and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants (£10k and £25k) payments as soon as possible. The council is currently waiting finalisation of our required system upgrade from our software provider to enable these payments to be made, which they are now in the final stages of testing.

An application form will need to be submitted to apply for these grants to ensure the council meets government requirements to make the relevant payments. Standard business information will need to be collected and the form to do this is currently being finalised and will be released shortly. We have identified those that may be entitled to this relief and you will be notified soon of how to apply for this grant.

Extended Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Discount 2020/2021 and Nursery Discount 2020/2021 - The council is waiting for final details from our software provider to upgrade our systems to enable the 100% discount to be applied to businesses that we have identified as being entitled to the above reliefs.

In the meantime, direct debits have been cancelled and payment will not be requested from bank accounts for this category of business. As soon as possible accounts will be updated and Business Rate demands will issued confirming the relief has been applied to accounts with a nil liability for 2020/21.

Support for businesses that pay business rates

For those currently in receipt of 50% Retail Relief this will automatically be increased to 100% and expanded to include the leisure and hospitality sectors. This Business rates holiday has been extended to all pubs, clubs, theatres and other hospitality, leisure and retail venues irrespective of their rateable value. If you currently pay your account via direct debit this has been cancelled from 1st April 2020 onwards.

For those businesses which do have a policy that covers pandemics, the government’s action is sufficient and will allow businesses to make an insurance claim against their policy. However many of those businesses do not have insurance so for pubs, clubs, theatres and other hospitality, leisure and retail venues with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 will be able to access an additional cash grant of up to £25,000 per business.

That means every single shop, pub, theatre, music venue, restaurant - and any other business in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector – will pay no business rates whatsoever for 12 months, and if they have a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000, they can now get a cash grant as well.

Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates

The government will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to all businesses currently eligible for Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rate Relief.

Please be aware that the council has already prepared and has posted out business rates bills for 2020/21 on 13 March 2020, based on the previously announced levels of relief.

If you are not affected by these changes, your bill is correct and you should make payment as detailed on your bill.

If you are affected by these changes we will send you a new 2020/21 business rate bill as soon as possible. If you still need to contact us then please email [email protected]

Commercial Rent Collection

The council has agreed an approach to rent collection and arrears for its business tenants in light of the Covid-19 situation and the latest advice issued by the Government on 23 March 2020, the headlines of which are:

  • commercial tenants unable to pay rent will be protected from eviction if they miss a payment in next 3 months. Tenants will remain liable for the rent after this period and the Government is monitoring the impact on landlords’ cash flow
  • the measures encourage ongoing conversations between landlords and tenants about voluntary arrangements
  • the latest measure builds on the unprecedented package of support for businesses already announced by the Government

In addition to this Government support, the council is keen to support its tenants to the extent that it can legally and practically do so and has agreed the following measures in line with the Government’s guidance:

  1. The Council will continue to invoice in line with the contractual arrangements (leases and licences etc) so that businesses remain aware of their rent liability. If tenants are unable to pay their rent because of Coronavirus then the council will pause all rent enforcement measures and will not pursue evictions for at least the next 3 months (until the end of June 2020) and then the situation will then be reviewed.
  2. For businesses required to close as a result of the Government’s Further businesses and premises to close: guidance updated on 25 March 2020, the council will respond to any requests from its business tenants for rent payment to be deferred, and for payment plans to be put in place initially for 3 months’ rent (until the end of June 2020) and again, this will also be kept under review.

BID (Business Improvement District) levy payments

In light of the current COVID19 crisis, the council is enabling a three-month deferral period for Business Improvement District (BID) levy payments; during which time the council will not pursue or enforce non-payment of the BID levy. The BID levy can still be paid in the normal way by businesses that wish to. BID levy payers will receive written notification of this within the coming weeks.

What Central Government are offering

The government has a page which lists the various measures available and who is administering them: COVID-19: support for businesses

The Chancellor announced a new grant scheme for self-employed workers that have lost income due to Coronavirus. The scheme will be administered by HMRC, full details can be found on their website.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) changes

The government will bring forward legislation to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • this refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible. The size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
  • the eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to self-isolators comes into force

The government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible. Existing systems are not designed to facilitate employer refunds for SSP.

Government-backed loans available from Bank of England/British Business Bank

Government-backed loans to help pay for rent, salaries and supplies or to purchase stock will be available from the week commencing 23 March 2020. These will be delivered through two main schemes:

Small and medium sized businesses

To support lending to small and medium sized businesses - extending the new Business Interruption Loan Scheme with no interest due for the first six months: Business Interruption Loan Scheme information. Interest and fees on the loans will be paid by the government the first twelve months, making them interest free to customers. This period may be shorter for firms in the fishery, aquaculture and agriculture sectors.

The measures on 11th March included a term funding scheme aimed at SMEs delivered via the banks: Bank of England measures to respond to the economic shock from Covid-19. Ask your bank about support.

Larger firms

Another scheme to support liquidity amongst larger firms: HM Treasury and the Bank of England launch a Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF). There is webpage for the corporate financing facility. Information on the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF),  including which lenders to contact, is available on Bank of England’s website. Businesses can talk to their lenders from the start of the day (23/3/2020) about accessing these loans. To access the CCFF firms do not have to have previously issued commercial paper or currently have a credit rating – please take a look at the site to see what steps can be taken in order to participate. 

These support schemes sit alongside the announcement by the Chancellor of a Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme under which will provide a grant to employers to keep their workers on rather than make them redundant. Salaries will be paid at 80% of their current level up to a maximum of £2,500. These grants will be available by the end of April and in the meantime £30bn of cash flow relief has been provided through the deferment of VAT bills.

Information about tax and the HMRC

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. These businesses can contact HMRC’s new dedicated COVID-19 helpline for advice and support. To ensure ongoing support, HMRC have made a further 2,000 experienced call handlers available to support firms and individuals when needed.

If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, then call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

Announced but awaiting further information

Also announced but with further detail still to be finalised is:

  • a package to support airlines and airports

Other useful links

The government have produced an online survey so that businesses can inform Government about how they might be able to help with the response to coronavirus,

Some businesses have also expressed an interest in volunteering their services for the local community. If you would like to get involved with this, please see the Southend Coronavirus Action Page.

Visit Britain/Visit England have a dedicated Covid-19 page for the latest updates and key links for businesses and industry.

For anyone involved with charities: Coronavirus: What charities need to know.

Government guidance for pubs and restaurants operating as take-aways 

Extra protection for businesses with ban on evictions for commercial tenants who miss rent payments: 

Coronavirus (COVID-19): early years and childcare closures 

Further information is available on GOV.UK.

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Page last updated: 31/03/2020