It’s been a busy time for trade associations who have been keeping their members updated and represented on the Coronavirus. Bacta has been tackling the issues with energy, the body’s latest update to the industry outlines a measure of its current activity over just a few days this week.
Retail Leisure and Hospitality Grants – These seem to be flowing now. In England there are one or two councils that have said members don’t qualify. They do and if you find yourself in this position please let me know and we will put the Council straight. In Wales we are getting mixed behaviours from local councils. I have today written to the Welsh Finance Minister asking that matters are clarified, as they were in England, so there is no doubt about amusement arcades’ eligibility. I have also asked welsh members to write to their AMs on this. In Scotland we continue to lobby for a per venue approach as opposed to a per business one as well as clarity around rates relief. Again please let me know your experiences so we can feed in to DCMS.
Premises Licence Fees – The Local Government Association has issued guidance to local authorities (in England) suggesting that Local Authorities seek to be helpful on the issue of fees. There is nothing to stop LAs setting lower fees for licences next year. They should and members are advised to keep pressing this point. The guidance also suggest LAs should be understanding on payment. They do nevertheless make it clear that their guidance is not legal advice and there is no obligation on a local authority to follow it. The advice can be read here https://www.local.gov.uk/approaches-managing-licensing-and-related-issues-during-covid-19-pandemic.
Gambling Commission – In correspondence with bacta, the Gambling Commission has made it clear it cannot reduce its fees. It has advised that members who are closed may wish to surrender any relevant licences and reapply when businesses reopen. Alternatively members could inform the Commission that their GGY has reduced and therefore should pay fees in a lower category in advance of any invoices being issued. Submission of Annual Returns – the Commission has agreed to delay Annual Return submissions, it today confirmed that this would be for four weeks. The automated renewal notices will still go out with the original date (and it seems all the threats associated with non-completion) but you do have extra time to make the submission. The announcement can be found here: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/news-action-and-statistics/News/regulatory-returns-temporary-extension-to-submission-dates
Business Shutdowns – Legislation is now in place to force businesses to close https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-sets-out-plans-to-enforce-closure-of-businesses-and-other-venues–2
Rules have now been implemented to force open venues to close. This will be done through local authority Environmental Health and Trading Standards Departments with police assistance if necessary.
There are unlimited fines for the breach of a notice to close.
Thanks to all members who have closed. There was a small pocket of companies that didn’t close over the weekend. We have tried to speak to as many of them we can. As I explained in my update over the weekend this is incredibly short-sighted and I’m being very polite. Let me know if any venues are still open. Also do not be embarrassed about telling your local authority. These people are risking everyone’s livelihoods for a few extra pence as well as jeopardising people’s lives.
Takeaway planning rules – These have changed.
For those of you with restaurants and cafes the requirement to apply for change of use to convert to a takeaway has been removed. You can just do it. You just have to tell the local council. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-to-grant-permission-for-pubs-and-restaurants-to-operate-as-takeaways-as-part-of-coronavirus-response
I also just wanted to provide you with a summary of some of the other support measures available to you:
Rates – Leisure businesses receive a 100% 12 month rates holiday. We are in the leisure business and are entitled to this relief even though not specifically listed in the guidance. We are pressing hard for that to be confirmed by Government. Our advice is don’t pay your rates. If a council argues the point we will stand behind you. We are also arguing that the entire supply chain is just as badly affected and should also enjoy the relief. Businesses may wish to similarly not pay their rates and argue the case with the council that you are part of the leisure industry. Small businesses already receiving small business rates relief will get a grant of £10K. This will come automatically via your local authority.
Leisure sector businesses with a rateable value up to £15k will also get a £10k grant.
Leisure sector businesses with a rateable value between £15k and £51k will get a grant of £25k.
Local authorities will automatically award these grants.
Please note that whilst very similar, Scotland and Wales have slightly different rules that you should check on the Scottish and Welsh Government websites.
VAT – This quarter can be deferred until the next quarter. Payment for the deferred quarter does not have to be paid until April 2021.
MGD – A number of members have asked if the same applies to MGD. It doesn’t but you can apply to HMRC under the Time to Pay scheme to delay payment. Contact HMRC.
Insurance – A number of members have said that insurers are saying that because we were not specifically mentioned in the close down order from Government on Friday, businesses interruption insurance is not payable. Any reading of the order let alone our moral and social obligation meant we had to shut and I am furious that companies are trying to wriggle out of paying. Again we need a clear statement from Government on this which I am endeavouring to get. I wrote to the Business Secretary, Chancellor and DCMS over the weekend. PLEASE CAN YOU LET ME KNOW THE NAMES OF INSURERS WHO ARE REFUSING TO PAY OUT. DCMS HAS ASKED FOR THIS INFORMATION.
Employment support – The Government’s offer to pay 80% of ‘furloughed’ workers wages was most welcome. The precise rules for getting your hands on the money are yet to be published but we know that furloughed means that your staff stay on your books in the normal way but they must not work. HMRC will be establishing an online portal through which you can designate which workers have been furloughed and their PAYE details. HMRC will give you a rebate. They are aiming for the end of April at the latest to get this up and running. It applies to both full time and part time employees. You do not have to make up the 20%. If you don’t, this may be an issue for workers at Minimum Wage. We are checking on this.
Self-employed – We await news on support for the self-employed.
Coinage – I have opened up communication with the Royal Mint to see if they have plans to increase the coin supply when members’ businesses reopen. I have assumed that most members will have banked the floats on their machines and will therefore need access to coins when you reopen. That’s going to put a big strain on the coin supply. CAN YOU LET ME KNOW IF YOU HAVE BANKED YOUR FLOATS OR IF YOU ARE KEEPING THEM READY TO REFLOAT.