COVID-19 March 31st

Security Team
COVID-19 Update: Protect Your Premises
March 30, 2020
Eastbourne COBRA Meeting
COVID-19 Update: 1st April
April 1, 2020

Please see below the latest update from the Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce.

Dominic Raab led the No.10 briefing yesterday and announced a £75 million package to arrange for grounded fleets, like BA and Easyjet, to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Britons trapped abroad. There was no news for increased business support.

Policing East Sussex

We are in contact with the Sussex Police Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne and the Chief Constable, Giles York about the risk to our businesses while our towns are so quiet. While we are all working from home, our empty offices and shops are a magnet for vandals, arsonists and thieves. Giles York has already responded to say he is “starkly aware of the risks for your membership and know that we have already tasked preventive actions to combat this.” All being well, the Army intervention that Robert Jenrick announced below will help boost Police numbers.

Other News

Vehicle MOTs have been exempted for 6 months. Guidance has also been given to English councils on the grants to the smallest business (inc retail and hospitality). Eastbourne Borough Council will be ready with the software to administer these grants by 24th April. We will let you know when they are sending letters out to eligible businesses.

Support for the Self-employed

On Thursday the Chancellor announced a support package for the self-employed to match the package for furloughed employees. Effectively they will allow 80% of the profit earned on the last 3 years tax returns up to £2,500 per month. If you do not have 3 years tax returns they will accept what you have from 1 year’s tax return as a minimum. If you have not filed your tax return for 2018/19 due in January, you have 4 weeks to get it in; so act now. The good news is that self-employed individuals who are owner-managers and pay themselves a salary through PAYE will be eligible for support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Job Retention Scheme

The HMRC Portal should be available in April. Self-employed individuals who are owner-managers and pay themselves a salary through PAYE will be eligible for support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Expansion of Rates Relief

HM Treasury has announced that the rates support scheme will be expanded to estate agents, lettings agencies and bingo halls that have closed as a result of the government’s coronavirus measures. They will now be exempted from business rates in 2020-21. As soon as the details are received from government, the Council will make the adjustments and contact eligible businesses.

Mental Health Support

Mental Health Awareness for Remote Workers: Practical Guide for Businesses

Special Groups

On Sunday the daily briefing from No. 10 was led by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. The Minister announced that special groups are being set up all over the country to bring senior officers together fron the NHS, the Police, the Fire Service, the Ambulance Service, Local Government, Local Business and the Army. These groups will be responsible for delivering food and support to vulnerable residents during the tightening lock down. At the instigation of Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce and Caroline Ansell MP, Eastbourne brought a group like this together over two weeks ago to make sure that all sectors of society are protected while the Corona Virus spreads. We are awaiting news from the Eastbourne Borough Council to find out if a specific group has been set up for Eastbourne. If it has we will hand over the work of the Eastbourne COBRA Meeting to this new group. If not, Eastbourne COBRA will carry on as before.

Important Insurance Update

While our town centres are quiet and many businesses have closed their offices, there has been a spike in break-ins. This is a reminder to tell your insurance provider if you have closed your office and are all working from home. A quick email to advise them would be a good idea. Some policies require you to drain the water system if you close the premises and others require windows boarded up. While most insurers have relaxed these requirements, it’s best to check to make sure.

New Insolvency Regulations

On Saturday the daily briefing was led by the Business Secretary, Alok Sharma. The main news he shared is that the regulations relating to insolvency are changing to give companies more time to recover should they get into difficulty. The Government will amend insolvency law to give companies breathing space so they may keep trading while they explore options for rescue. This will include the temporary suspension of wrongful trading provisions retrospectively from 1 March 2020 for three months. While the reforms will include a suspension of the wrongful trading rules, the government has emphasised that other protections against director wrongdoings will remain in place. The new restructuring tools in this package will give Insolvency Practitioners more options to help businesses navigate the COVID-19 disruption although the rules are still being developed and we will update you when we have more information. To clarify the existing guidance “Wrongful Trading” (under Section 214 of the Insolvency Act 1986) occurs when company directors have continued to trade: When “they knew, or ought to have known that there was no reasonable prospect of avoiding an insolvent liquidation” Directors should take “every step with a view to minimising the potential loss to the company’s creditors” If you are fearful that your company might not survive, get in touch for support and advice.

Don’t leave it until it is too late.

Protect yourself from scams

Sadly, villains are making the most of the turmoil caused by the virus. To protect yourself: Do not give financial information to emails asking for your data. Do not allow so called Health Visitors into your home. The Police are not issuing spot fines to people who are not socially distancing out of doors. If a Police Officer asks you to pay a fine, check their warrant card as they are likely to be an imposter. Do not accept help from cold callers. Be suspicious of anyone you don’t know on the telephone, by email or in person. Travel information

CBILS, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The Government has sought to make accessing CBILS as easy as possible and are therefore making further clarification on the subject of personal guarantees. Whether a lender requires a personal guarantee for a loan supported by the CBILS is at the discretion of the lender, who is accredited by the British Business Bank. However, a lender is not allowed to take a personal guarantee against a borrower’s principle residence under the scheme. So even if a personal guarantee is required under the lender’s credit policy, it cannot be taken against the borrower’s home. Some major lenders have announced that they are not going to require personal guarantees on loans under CBILS the scheme (of any size). If businesses are worried about the specific terms of finance facilities available under this scheme, they should speak to their usual lender. More information can be found here. The Bank of England response: In terms of the Government’s CBILS scheme, the British Business Bank website is helpful Point 3 highlights that: The lender has the authority to decide whether to offer you finance. If it can do so on normal commercial terms without having to make use of the scheme, it will. The Big Four banks have agreed that they will not take personal guarantees as security for lending below £250,000. The scheme is designed to alleviate short-term difficulties (due to the COVID outbreak) that cannot commercially be bridged without Government support. The scheme is not designed to replace commercial lending where this is possible. On the business interruption loan scheme, Alok Sharma confirmed that 40 accredited lenders are processing thousands of applications. With thanks to the Eastbourne unLtd Chamber of Commerce for sharing their Daily Update