Coronavirus (COVID-19) local information and advice:

Advice and how our services are affected

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Advice for business

COVID-19: support for business

Business rates relief, grants and further sources of support for business

The government have 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 or visit the government's dedicated business support website at www.businesssupport.gov.uk.

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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 are being 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 now been published at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/business-rates-retail-discount-guidance

Small Business Grant

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

We will be writing to all eligible businesses this week 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.

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 will be writing to all eligible businesses this week 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.

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

•traded in the tax year 2019-20

•are 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

Childcare Providers

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 are being 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:

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.

Key points to note

  • The UVC MOT testing station closed as of yesterday 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:

See here for the latest advice from the Food Standards Agency: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-food-businesses

Guidance from CIEH for deliveries and takeaways: https://www.cieh.org/media/4070/covid-19-food-delivery-and-takeaway-guidance.pdf

Guidance for businesses/premises required to close

Guidance on the closure of all retailers that sell non-essential goods and other non-essential premises, as part of further social distancing measures.

Berkshire Growth Hub

For detailed advice on sustaining your business, including access to finance and other continuity advice, contact the Berkshire Growth Hub.

Government protection for commercial tenant rent payments

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction.

DWP advice for people facing redundancy

Advice for cultural businesses

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].

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