I have been having weekly calls with local leaders and all of the Bristol MPs to ensure we are doing all we can as a city to get the help to those who need it during this crisis, including the many businesses that make up our local economy. I know this is a very uncertain and challenging time for everyone – particularly businesses and sole traders.
I’ve been in touch with a lot of local business owners about the impact of Coronavirus on their businesses. And I recently joined an online meeting hosted by the Federation of Small Business (FSB) to hear from Bristol South business owners on the issues they continue to face so that I can raise these in Parliament if needed.
The Government has announced various support packages available to businesses, which I’ve been helping people to make sense of and access. There are many gaps in the support available and I have been working with frontbench colleagues since the start of this crisis, to raise these with the Chancellor (see earlier letter here); from not being able to get Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans to a lack of support for self-employed people.
In some cases, the Chancellor has listened and extended schemes and introduced additional financial support. There are still many unresolved issues, including grant eligibility for businesses that do not qualify for business rates relief, for company directors who pay themselves through dividends, and for the many self-employed who do not qualify for Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
There are also challenges that are sector specific, for example those businesses which hire apprentices (see earlier article here), veterinary and dentistry practices who fail to qualify for grants, for pub landlords who continue to pay rent to their pub companies whilst being closed, and many more. I continue to work with local businesses to push on these issues.
As always, please do let me know if you encounter a specific problem that you need help with. You can reach me via firstname.lastname@example.org
If you run a business in Bristol South or are a self-employed, you may find these resources helpful…
The Government has asked that most customer-facing businesses close to further restrict the spread of Coronavirus. A full list of which businesses are required to close can be found here.
The Government is looking to ease some of the initial measures to enable some businesses to re-open and employees to return to work. It has guidance on how to make the workplace safe while Coronavirus remains present in the community. See here.
For those businesses still operational, the government has created guidance on how to operate while observing social distancing – here.
The West of England Growth Hub advice is available here.
It has also launched Trading Better Online, which is designed to help small businesses enhance their web presence by adopting new technology or new digital practices.
The Confederation of British Industry advice is available, here.
For employers and employees, see Acas advice here.
FSB members can access further support here.
The Business Support Helpline is for advice on a range of business issues: 0300 456 3565. Open Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm. Email email@example.com
People or businesses which need urgent help should talk to their local authorities, as they can provide direct support quickly through their assistance schemes.
Bristol City Council business support pages can be found here: This includes a list of additional funding support schemes, many are sector specific.
Government support packages include:
The Coronavirus Business Job Retention Scheme. This will see HMRC pay 80% of ‘furloughed’ workers’ wages up to a £2,500 per month cap until the end of August; 70% in September; and 60% in October. The scheme closes at the end of October 2020. Employers will have the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back part time from 1 July 2020. Check your eligibility here.
The direct grant scheme for the self-employed. The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will pay self-employed individuals up to 80% of their profits, up to a £2,500 per month cap until the end of July. There will be a second and final grant in August worth 70% of average monthly trading profits capped at £6,570. Check your eligibility here.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will see banks offer loans of up to £5m to support SMEs, delivered by the British Business Bank. Check your eligibility here.
Government-backed Bounce Back Loans may be available for small and medium businesses – they are 12 months interest free loans of between £2,000 and £50,000, Details here.
Business Rate Relief for all businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure and nursery business in England for 12 months in 2020-21. Eligible pubs will also be entitled to a business rate discount of £5,000. See here for details.
Cash grants of £25,000 are being given out by the local council to the smallest businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector. You can apply via the council website here. With £10,000 grants for all business in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) and Rural Rates Relief. If a business is eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, it will be contacted by the relevant local authority.
Applications are now open for the Small Business Discretionary Grant. Eligible Bristol businesses – such as market traders, B&Bs and similar which are not able to claim other forms of support – can apply for up to £5,000. Deadline Mon 8 Jun 2020. See here.
HMRC ‘Time To Pay’ service allows businesses and the self-employed to defer tax payments over an agreed period of time. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. HMRC have also launched a helpline to help businesses concerned about paying their tax due to Coronavirus: 0800 015 9559. Opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday 8am to 4pm.
HMRC is also offering tax deferments on both self-assessment tax returns and the quarterly tax return for 20 March-30 June. This is also an automatic offer with no applications required.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) costs for businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be met by the Government in full for up to 14 days per employee. Further guidance here.
Further advice for businesses which have apprentices is available here.