COVID-19: support for business

The government has made a series of announcements over the last few weeks regarding temporary measures to support small businesses, pubs, the retail, leisure and hospitality sector and childcare providers. 

Please see below our actions to deliver these measures locally to support business in Reading.

See further detail on all government support available to businesses, call the business support helpline on 0300 456 3565, visit the government's dedicated business support website at www.businesssupport.gov.uk or use the new government tool to find financial support.

Government guidance for employers following the Prime Minister's announcement on 10/05/20

Financial support for businesses and charities

Financial support for the self-employed and individuals

Licensing, regulation and related guidance

Sector specific advice and guidance

Others sources of support

Government guidance for employers following the Prime Minister's announcement on 10/05/20

'The Government has published new 'COVID-19 secure' guidelines to UK employers to help get businesses back up and running and workplaces operating as safely as possible. They have also published eight guides which provide more tailored advice on different types of workplace.

Information on how to access Covid-19 testing for employees.

Financial support for businesses and charities

Retail, Leisure & Hospitality Discount (business rates)

Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Grant

Small Business Grants

Childcare Providers Business Rate Holiday

New Government Loans

New Government Loans for Small Businesses

Payment of Suppliers by Public Bodies

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (for 'furloughing' staff)

Government Protection for Commercial Tenant Rent Payments

Extra funding for Charities

Funding for Online Culture Projects

Coronavirus Mental Health Response grants for VCS organisations

Government support for businesses driving innovation and development

Podcast

 

Retail, Leisure & Hospitality Discount

On 17 March relief in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector was extended beyond that announced in the budget to give 100% relief to all properties regardless of rateable value.

This relief was originally going to be 50% for 2020/21 for premises with a rateable value below £51,000; but it has been increased to 100% for 2020/21 only and extended to all properties regardless of the rateable value. The relief has also been extended to include museums, theatres, gyms and hotels.

Our rates bills were issued before the budget announcement, so this change is not reflected in your initial bill. We processed the reliefs on 27 March and amended bills have been dispatched to all qualifying businesses. We identified 1,200 properties eligible for this relief, with the award in excess of £44 million.

We appreciate that businesses may have limited access to their mail at this time, we therefore encourage you to sign up to e-billing in order to view your bill. You can register and view your account at www.reading.gov.uk/customeraccount

If you have received this relief but are no longer the ratepayer, or you have not yet been registered as the ratepayer, please email our business rates team at business.rates@reading.gov.uk

Guidance to local authorities on the implementation of the expanded relief has been published at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/business-rates-retail-discount-guidance

Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Grant

The government also announced a grant of up to £25,000 for all business in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.

We have written to all eligible businesses seeking confirmation of bank details so that we can make payment via BACS as soon as possible. We urge businesses to contact us to enable prompt payments, BACS details can be emailed in advance to ensure prompt payment to business.rates@reading.gov.uk. Please provide your business rates account reference and state which grant you are requesting. We will follow up post-payment for further information. Where BACS details are already held, a payment will be made automatically. As above we will follow up post-payment for additional information.

Further guidance for local authorities is available on administering the business grant schemes.

Small Business Grants

Local Authority Discretionary Grant Fund

The government has introduced further further measures to support Small Businesses, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Small business grant

The government announced a £10,000 grant for small businesses that currently qualify for small business rates relief.

We have written to all eligible businesses seeking confirmation of bank details so that we can make payment via BACS as soon as possible.We urge businesses to contact us to enable prompt payments, BACS details can be emailed in advance to ensure prompt payment to business.rates@reading.gov.uk. Please provide your business rates account reference and state which grant you are requesting. We will follow up post-payment for further information. Where BACS details are already held, a payment will be made automatically. As above we will follow up post-payment for additional information.

Further guidance for local authorities is available on administering the business grant schemes.

New discretionary funding

Small businesses across Reading will soon be able to apply for new discretionary funding to support them through the Covid-19 crisis.

Initial details of the new Government fund can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/top-up-to-local-business-grant-funds-scheme

This new discretionary fund is aimed at small businesses with less than 50 employees and with ongoing fixed property-related costs who can demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop in their income due to Coronavirus restriction measures. Local authorities have been asked by Government to prioritise businesses in shared spaces, regular market traders, small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief, and bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates. The allocation of funding will be at the discretion of local authorities.

The Council is now working up a process by which small businesses will be able to apply for support from the new pot of discretionary funding. This includes discussions with neighbouring local  authorities to try and ensure there is a level of consistency across the area in terms of the criteria which will apply. Details of the application process will be widely publicised when this work is finalised, including on this same webpage.

Childcare Providers Business Rate Holiday

To support nurseries at this time, a business rates holiday for one year has also been announced. That means non-local authority providers of childcare will pay no business rates in 2020-21, from 1 April.

Our bills were produced before this announcement, so this change is not reflected in your initial bill. We processed the reliefs on 27 March and amended bills have been dispatched to all qualifying businesses.

We appreciate that businesses may have limited access to their mail at this time, we therefore encourage you to sign up to e-billing in order to view your bill. You can register and view your account at www.reading.gov.uk/customeraccount

If you have received this relief but are no longer the ratepayer, or you have not yet been registered as the ratepayer, please email our business rates team at business.rates@reading.gov.uk

New Government Loans

Businesses are able to access government support to keep operating: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-business-support-to-launch-from-today

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will provide government-backed loans of up to £5 million to small and medium businesses.

Bank of England measures

Two schemes involving the Bank of England:

On 19 May the Government extended the maximum loan size available through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme from £50 million to £200 million: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/larger-businesses-to-benefit-from-loans-of-up-to-200-million

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (for 'furloughing' staff)

Information about the Coronavirus job retention scheme.

Chancellor extends furlough scheme until October. 

Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

The Government announced on 19 May that employers will be able to make claims through the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme from 26 May.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-statutory-sick-pay-rebate-scheme-set-to-launch

Payment of Suppliers by Public Bodies

See Government guidance for public bodies (including Reading Borough Council) on payment of suppliers during the coronavirus outbreak.

pdf icon Frequently Asked Questions [110kb]

New Goverment Loans for Small Businesses

Small businesses will benefit from a new fast-track finance scheme providing loans with a 100% government-backed guarantee for lenders.

Extra funding for charities

Reading Borough Council has allocated £100k for small grants to the voluntary sector to assist their response and support to the community during the Covid-19 pandemic. Apply for voluntary funding here

Berkshire Community Foundation is providing support to a range of non-profit individuals and organisations. 

Chancellor sets out extra £750 million coronavirus funding for frontline charities. 

Funding for Online Culture Projects

The Reading Place of Culture, a project run by Reading Borough Council, Reading UK and Reading University, are creating a virtual 'venue' called Reading Culture Live, where you will be able to take part in activities and events created by our cultural community for our community. Funding of up to £2000 per application is available to support creative online projects created by individuals and organisations based in Reading. Get the full brief and find out how to apply here.

 

Coronavirus Mental Health Response grants for VCS organisations

A £5 million government fund is being made available to help voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations in England continue to provide mental health services or provide additional support, at a time of increased demand due to COVID-19. Organisations can apply for a Coronavirus Mental Health Response grant. Grants of £20,000 or £50,000 are available for projects lasting up to 12 months. Applicants are invited to apply at any time and there is a fast track assessment process with applications being assessed every two weeks. Applicants will be informed of the outcome within one month of applying. As part of this funding programme, the National Survivor User Network (NSUN) will be administering a fund to support user-led organisations and smaller, unconstituted community organisations. Details will be available from Monday 20 April on the NSUN website.

Government support for businesses driving innovation and development

On 20th April the Government announced a £1.25 billion support package for UK businesses driving innovation and development through the Covid-19 pandemic

Podcast

In this special podcast Jason Brock, Leader of Reading Borough Council and Nigel Horton Baker Executive Director of Reading UK give details of how businesses can get advice and assistance to help get them through the crisis.

Financial support for the self-employed and individuals

Self-employment Income Support Scheme

DWP Advice for People facing Redundancy

Self-employment Income Support Scheme

The government has announced a scheme to allow self employed people to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of trading profits (average annual income over the last 3 years). This is for up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

The initial payments will be for the next 3 months - this may be extended if needed. The grant will be paid directly into your bank account, in one instalment.

You can apply if you're a self-employed individual (or a member of a partnership). Your trading profits must be less than £50,000 and constitute more than half of your average taxable income.

To qualify you must:

  • have submitted your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19
  • have traded in the tax year 2019-20
  • be trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19
  • intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
  • have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19

If you have not submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19, you must do this by 23 April 2020.

HMRC will use data on 2018-19 returns already submitted to identify those eligible and will risk assess any late returns filed before the 23 April 2020 deadline in the usual way.

You cannot apply for this scheme yet.

HMRC will contact you directly if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online. Payments are expected to begin in June.

In addition self-employed people can now access Universal Credit in full. A self-employed person with a non-working partner and two children, living in the social rented sector, can receive welfare support of around £1,800 per month.

For more details: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

DWP Advice for People facing Redundancy

Licensing, regulation and related guidance

Guidance for Businesses Required to Close

Guidance for Businesses Staying Open

Licensing

Private Hire & Taxi Licensing

Environmental Health

Trading Standards

Advice from the National Business Crime Centre

 

Licensing

At the present time licensing applications can only be processed in electronic format. Please copy all documentation and send it to licensing@reading.gov.uk.

As it is not possible to take telephone calls on the usual licensing telephone numbers, please direct all questions to licensing@reading.gov.uk where they will be dealt with as soon as possible.

Please note that applications may longer to process than usual in view of the impact of Coronavirus on our services. 

Private hire and taxi licensing

The RBC licensing office is now closed. All correspondence can only be received by email to licensing@reading.gov.uk. This is being monitored and all correspondence will be dealt with as soon as is possible.

The Department for Transport has issued pdf icon updated guidance [374kb] following the Government's relaxation of restrictions.

Key points to note

  • The UVC MOT testing station closed 25 March 2020 so only Autocraft is open for MOTs. The Government has extended MOTs for 6 months. So we will send out renewed vehicle licenses for 6 months only. The compliance test will run in line with the MOT. If vehicle owners submit the MOT certificate along with the compliance test completed, the licence will be for the full 12 months. The paper licence is required to be kept in the vehicle and produced on request of an authorised officer until such time as vehicle plates can be produced. Vehicles must continue to display the expired plate until a new plate is provided.
  • We are not accepting any new driver/vehicle licence applications until further notice.

Any renewal applications will need to be scanned/photographed along with the completed cheque and sent in to licensing@reading.gov.uk electronically. Then the paper copy of the application along with cheque can be sent in the post, to the Civic Offices the address is below. If we are able to get an online payment system up and running we will send out another email.

A paper licence will then be issued which the driver will be required to carry in the vehicle at all times and will have to produce to an authorised officer if requested.

Environmental Health

Guidance for food businesses:

Guidance for all workplaces:

Trading Standards

Trading Standards have been made aware that a small number of local retailers may be raising prices of essential goods in response to the coronavirus crisis. Consumers have reported that price rises of 100% or more have been applied to staple foods such as bread and eggs and also to goods such as hand sanitisers and paracetamol. Trading Standards are currently reiterating advice being offered by the Government's Competition and Marketing Authority which is urging retailers to act responsibly during the current crisis. Information supplied by the Competition and Marketing Authority can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/competition-and-markets-authority

Whilst acknowledging that retailers are free to apply their own prices to goods and often need to cover increased costs levied by wholesalers ,Trading Standards are urging retailers to act responsibly  in the current circumstances to avoid undermining public confidence in the independent retail sector and to prevent the less well-off being denied essential food, pharmaceutical and sanitary products.

Retailers are being strongly advised to avoid the practice of dual pricing whereby goods are pack marked or marked with a price on the shelves, but consumers are charged a higher price at the till. This practice is illegal and, if caught, retailers could face prosecution.

Trading Standards are also concerned that suppliers of food supplements, herbal remedies and other treatments may be tempted to make false or unsupported claims about the ability of products to cure, prevent or treat the symptoms of coronavirus. No substance or treatment available at retail level will prevent or cure coronavirus and any such claims made regarding goods are likely to be illegal and will be thoroughly investigated by Trading Standards.

Traders or consumers seeking advice or wishing to report matters to Trading Standards should contact their local authority Trading Standards Service via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 2231133.  For complaints about traders in the Reading Borough, photos of evidence of dual pricing or coronavirus claims can be sent to consumerprotection@reading.gov.uk.  Please include the trader's address.

Retailers who wish to report suspicious or apparently unjustified price rises by wholesalers or suppliers can also contact the Competition and Markets authority at covid.monitoring@cma.gov.uk

Advice from the National Business Crime Centre

For advice aimed at businesses who remain open (on violence or anti-social behaviour against staff, managing large gatherings and queues etc) and businesses which have closed (on protecting business premises etc) please see this word icon advice from the National Business Crime Centre [1Mb].

Sector specific advice and guidance

Find specific advice for sectors including construction, technology and charities at Reading UK

Guidance on social distancing in the workplace for manufacturing, construction, retail, logistic and transport businesses which are still operational.

The Government has released videos with guidance on safe working practices for a number of different sectors. 

Guidance and advice for the cultural sector: 

The Reading, Place of Culture team, which is made up of Reading Borough Council, the University of Reading and Reading UK, are reaching out during these unprecedented times to support you in the challenges you are facing and what lays ahead.

We know that culture helps people live rich and fulfilled lives and that in these difficult times it will help sustain people, communities and our country. When the crisis is over, it will help our recovery. It is therefore vital that we support the arts, culture and heritage sectors as much as we can so that you can continue give people a chance to express and enjoy themselves and promote strong and prosperous communities. See what we are doing to help the cultural sector during this time.

Other sources of support

Berkshire Growth Hub

Reading UK

NHS health and wellbeing advice

 

 

 

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