Covid-19: advice and information

COVID-19 Advice and Information

As the coronavirus outbreak is unfolding, the UK Government's approach, advice and support is changing rapidly. The Chancellor has announced a series of measures to support small and medium sized businesses. This page will be regularly updated to provide up to date information and advice.

LAST UPDATED: week beginning 25 May

Latest updates:

Member-only Briefings

The CLA is producing a series of Member-only Briefings to provide further assistance to members in key areas such as Government business support, residential landlords and tenants and how key workers can be deployed. Click on the button below (LOGIN REQUIRED)

See all member only briefings.

Essential workers travel form: a template is also available that people can use for their workers to show that they are travelling for essential work. Download the document here.

NOTE: Covid 19 and access

Defra and Welsh Government suggested signage in relation to public rights of way is available for CLA members to download and print here. Members will find an option for directing the public to an alternative route and options for circumstances where this is not possible or desirable. Click here for the member-only guidance on Covid 19 and access.

NOTE: Scam warning

When available, the Self-employed Income Support Scheme will be accessible only through GOV.UK. If someone texts, calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, it is a scam.


List of topics covered - scroll down the page to read advice

CLA Member-only Briefings

England and Wales

Access

Agriculture

Digital connectivity and skills

Forestry

Government advice

Government Roadmap

Landlords and tenants

Mental and Physical wellbeing

Rural Business Measures

Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE)

Rural tourism

Supply Chain

Taxation

Utilities

Wales


Access

Access to private land in the countryside

On 25 March the CLA published a guidance note for members on how to manage public access safely, but in terms of COVID-19 and in terms of increased farm activity. To access this note, please click here (requires login)

Covid 19 and Coastal Access

Natural England has confirmed it has temporarily suspended publication of any further proposals and the end date for responses to proposals currently out for consultation in relation to the England Coast Path.

Stretches of the path currently out for consultation include:

  • Eastbourne to Camber
  • Tilbury to Southend
  • Isle of Wight

Further details are available on the England Coast Path homepage online and can be accessed via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/england-coast-path-improving-public-access-to-the-coast

In due course Natural England will start publishing coastal access reports again and add revised end dates for the above consultations once Government restrictions lift.

If you would like further, more detailed advice, please get in touch with your Regional Office in the first instance or email Sophie.dwerryhouse@cla.org.uk or telephone on 07771 977204.

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Agriculture

BPS and CS applications deadline extended

The Government has confirmed that the applications deadline for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and claims for Countryside Stewardship (CS), Environmental Stewardship (ES) and woodland legacy revenue payments have now been extended to 15 June. Farmers and land manager can now submit applications up to this date without penalty.

However, they are still encouraged to submit claims and applications, in particular online for BPS and CS through the Rural Payments Service, as soon as they are able to, with a large number already received by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

The RPA will continue to monitor the situation carefully and consider if further measures are needed. Applications for new CS Higher Tier and Mid Tier agreements are still being accepted ahead of their respective deadlines of 1 May and 31 July 2020.

bTB testing of cattle in England and Wales

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has issued guidance on Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) testing during the current Covid-19 outbreak. Livestock keepers, like all members of the public, are advised to follow the latest UK Government advice in relation to self-isolation and in limiting the spread of the virus. If caring for dependents or self-isolation is preventing you from presenting for scheduled bTB testing you are advised to try and organise someone else to take your place. If this cannot be arranged you must contact your Veterinary Delivery Partner (VDP) at the earliest opportunity who will contact the APHA to reschedule. If testing becomes overdue livestock keepers will notbe referred to the Rural Payment Agency or Rural Payments Wales to have their Basic Payment reduced.

All members are strongly advised to log onto the www.tbhub.co.uk and read the latest Covid-19 advice.

Environment Agency updates guidance on exceeding waste storage limits

The Environment Agency has issued a new regulatory position statement on what happens if waste storage limits are exceeded as a result of Covid-19. In order to store and treat waste an environmental permit is required or a waste exemption registered with the Environment Agency.

However, the Environment Agency is now relaxing the rules relating to storage if the

waste storage capacity at your permitted site is exceeded or the storage limits under a registered waste exemption (for a T1 to T32 or S1 and S2 exemption) are exceeded.

The new temporary rules that run until 30 September, allow waste to be stored at an unpermitted site that is controlled by the producer; and, exceed the storage limits of the registered waste exemption for a T1 to T32 or S1 and S2 exemption

In order to be able to use these new rules, the producer must email the Environment Agency (enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk) in order to gain approval. The EA will then assess whether to approve the request and will also look at the producer’s compliance history.

For further details click here.

The Environment Agency has also updated its guidance regarding social distancing when signing and handing over waste transfer notes. This applies to 30 June and may be extended.

For full details of the conditions relating to waste transfer notes, click here.

Environment Agency update on payment of fees

Those applying to the Environment Agency for new permits or licences will need to pay the fee at the time of application. As most annual charges are invoiced in April, the Environment Agency has introduced new processes for those who may have difficulties in paying the invoice on time because of Covid-19. If members are in this position, they need to contact the Environment Agency’s agents, Shared Services Connected Ltd (SSCL) who will discuss how future payments can be made. Contact details for SSCL will be on the invoice. More information can be found here.

Environment Secretary sets outs details of new farm labour website

The Environment Secretary, Rt Hon George Eustice, has written an open letter describing the Government’s new web-based portal for those seeking to work on farm. The website is intended to act as a central hub to signpost people to the jobs available on farms. It is also an information and resources website so that growers, workers and industry can have a single place to go.

More information can be found: pickforbritain.org.uk

Environment Agency updates guidance on spreading slurry and milk on land

The Environment Agency has issued an updated regulatory statement on the spreading of slurry or milk on land and the storing of slurry. This sets out the activities that farmers can undertake without having to meet the normal regulatory requirements.

The new guidance only applies if slurry or milk cannot be spread on land due to the Covid-19 outbreak. This could be where the supply chain is disrupted due to the measures introduced to contain Covid-19. In such an event, farmers will not be expected to:

  • meet the full building standard requirements and notification requirements of the current silage and slurry regulations to store additional slurry;
  • only spread waste milk on the same area in any 4-week period as required under the waste exemption rules; and,
  • spread in line with a planned farm nutrient management plan required under the farming rules for water.
  • However, the guidance does not apply to any other activity and farmers must get written agreement from the Environment Agency before they can rely on this guidance.

For more details, go to their website.

Farm and site visits – Natural England update

In light of the coronavirus outbreak Natural England is adapting the way it gives advice to support farmers, land managers and rural businesses during these unprecedented times.

All fieldwork, undertaken by Natural England (NE) and their contractors, remains suspended until further notice in line with government guidance on social distancing and essential travel. However, NE advisers are able to give advice without always needing to visit, in particular where they have worked with the farmer before. NE are developing a range of processes looking at how to best use technology including remote sensing, digital solutions and virtual meetings to support Countryside Stewardship 2020 applications.

Remote advice (via phone or video call) will be available to help land managers to develop Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship Scheme applications in time for 1 May application deadline.

Technical advice and support on Catchment Sensitive Farming is available by remote/digital means, including where farmers need to make Countryside Stewardship mid-tier applications. Please contact the CSF team as usual (020 8026 2018)

For advice on managing protected sites or species, such as requests for consent for work on an SSSI, contact NE as normal (protectedsites@naturalengland.org.uk), and they will advise on next steps, again making use of existing data where possible.

The rules about protection of the natural environment are of course unchanged by the coronavirus outbreak, so in exceptional circumstances, for example if there are any concerns that immediate action is required to prevent harm, or where serious breaches of the law are reported that merit immediate investigation, then NE may need to make a site visit but will ensure social distancing is observed.

Farm Safety

Members are reminded of the need to consider their own safety, in addition to the safety of their family and staff at this busy time. With the increase of temporary workers likely to arrive on farms shortly in preparation for various types of harvest or for covering ill or self-isolating regular staff, the yellow wellies farm safety campaign has produced a guide. Please use the link to access it in addition to the guide for parents and young farmers. Further details can be found: www.yellowwellies.org

Farm Labour - more needs to be done

The CLA has been at the forefront of talking with Government about the need for sourcing adequate supplies of labour on-farm during the outbreak.

The restrictions on travel for migrants who would normally make up the majority of the seasonal workforce, combined with the numbers of domestic workers likely to need to self-isolate, means that the agriculture sector could be some 80,000 ,000 workers short this year. This will have a seriously negative impact on the finances of farms in this country as well as on their productivity.

This is why we have raised this at the highest levels of government, calling for the need of a “Land Army” and making full use of those workers in other sectors who are no longer working.

We are continuing to press the Government to be more proactive in amplifying the need for farm workers through the Job Centre Plus network.

There may be advantages to greater flexibility on rules for students so that they can be employed on farm more easily than now, and definitely opportunities for university students. Perhaps most importantly, the CLA is pressing Government to be joined up, and consider what measures will incentivise people who cannot do their normal jobs to work on farms. We are picking up indications that the job retention scheme may be having the opposite effect.

We are liaising with sector bodies such as the British Growers Association and will keep members regularly informed of progress.

#FeedtheNation –increase in applicants for farming jobs, but gap still large

Recruitment companies are reporting a large increase in the number of applicants for jobs on-farm. The CLA has calculated that, with the inability of migrant workers to travel to the UK due to travel restrictions and an anticipated infection rate of 20% for domestic farm labour, the UK will be short of 80,000 farm workers during the coming season.

At present, over 30,000 have expressed an interest in working on-farm. This has been helped by the Government’s decision to allow furloughed workers under the job retention scheme to undertake additional paid work. However, this is still someway short of the needed 80,000 target.

Recruiters have reported an 83% increase in online applications with the farming sector being heavily targeted. However, this will still leave a shortfall and members who have farm vacancies are urged to use the CLA Feed the Nation webpage for more information about how to meet their labour needs.

Guidance provided on where to find seasonal farm work

Defra has provided more details regarding type of seasonal work available on farms, who can apply, and areas where work is available. The guidance follows the launch of the Government Pick For Britain website which lists recruitment agencies looking to hire seasonal workers and more general information.

The guidance sets out:

  • Requirements for seasonal work;
  • How furloughed workers can play their part;
  • Where to look for jobs;
  • Keeping workers safe

For more details can be found here.

Keep up to date and communicate

It is important for all businesses to keep up to date with the latest information from the Government, including public health authorities: The government will update its advice on Coronavirus daily and businesses need to be aware that they may need to change how the business operates. Government advice can be found here:www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

The CLA will be providing the latest information as COVID-19 develops so bookmark this webpage (https://www.cla.org.uk/coronavirus).

During this period of the outbreak how the business communicates with its employees, customers and suppliers will be very important. Employees will need to know where the business stands, what could happen in the future and how they are protected.

Along with employees, business customers and suppliers will need to be kept regularly informed as to what is happening. Opening a two-way conversation with customers and suppliers can give that element of reassurance they need.

One of the best ways of doing this is through your website as this will be the place many people will go first of all. The website should always be up to date and accurate.

Key workers

Due to the decision to close schools, it is vital that those who work in the agriculture sector and the food supply chain, particularly high labour sites such as poultry units, fruit and vegetable planting and harvesting, are regarded as key workers in the economy.

In addition, any major disruption to labour availability (eg because of travel restrictions) or input supplies will have an impact on planting, growing and harvesting crops, and livestock production and animal welfare. The impact goes beyond that on seasonal workers, taking in:

  • Farmers, farmworkers, vets, agronomist, advisers
  • Delivery drivers (of animal feed, fertiliser, pesticides, seeds etc).
  • Processing sectors such as abattoirs, meat cutting, fruit and vegetable processing and packing, animal feed mills, flour mills etc

As a result of strong lobbying, the Government has now announced that workers involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines) will be deemed as key workers.

Other keyworker categories include transport workers that maintain the freight system and supply chains as well as those in the utility sectors (water, electricity, gas and oil) and telecommunications.

The full Government statement can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

Please get in touch with your CLA Regional Office if you are experiencing difficulties with how your children's school is interpreting this.

Key workers can apply for Covid-19 testing

The Government is extending the range of testing for Covid-19 to all key workers and their families if they are symptomatic. Key workers include those in the food production system. This will allow frontline workers to return to work if they, or members of their household, test negative for coronavirus.

Workers themselves can apply for a test or through their employer.

Further information on who is eligible for testing can be found here.

Job retention scheme opens for applicants

The Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which allows companies to furlough staff opens today. Under the scheme employees who are furloughed will receive 80% of salary paid for by the Government up to a cap of £2,500, before tax. Employers have the option of topping up salaries to 100%. HMRC will be responsible for implementing the scheme. If businesses need payments from the scheme before 30 April, they must apply before Wednesday (22 April).

The Government has also extended the scheme to 30 June.

Full details can be found here.

The Government has also published a step-by-step guide on the job retention scheme for employers which can be found here.

Labour availability

The Covid-19 outbreak comes at an extremely busy time for many businesses, particularly in the horticulture and tourism sectors. We are aware that with the restrictions being placed on travel by countries around the world, it is very possible that if the business relies on seasonal migrant labour there may be labour shortages.

However, with likely reductions in employment as a result of Covid-19, there may be opportunities to recruit your labour needs locally. So now would be the right time to contact your local Job Centre to begin advertising your vacancies.

Latest guidance on the welfare of animals

The Government has updated its advice for people working with animals during the Covid-19 outbreak. This includes information on livestock and horses.

If someone has symptoms of Covid-19 they must stay at home for 7 days, or 14 as a household. If a horse is kept in a livery, stables or on private land, it must not be visited while the person is in self isolation. Suitable animal welfare arrangements should be made through either the yard manager or the vet.

If there is livestock on the holding, someone who is not self-isolating should be responsible for the welfare of the animals. Where this is not possible, it is important that the basic needs of your animals are met. The government’s hygiene rules - washing hands before and after handling animals and staying 2 metres away from other people – must be enforced.

If a horse requires attention from a farrier, the farrier should be contacted for advice as to how to best meet the needs of the horse. Again, the hygiene and social distancing rules must be met when in contact with the horse.

Licensing of cattle movements in England only

The TB Hub has issued a list of Frequently Asked Questions relating to the licensing of cattle movements. These include questions on: sending cattle for slaughter, calf movements, buying in bulls, cows and heifers, selling cattle not ready for slaughter and selling stores to a licensed finishing unit.

For the full list of FAQs go to: https://tbhub.co.uk/licensing-of-cattle-movements-in-england-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

Livestock owners – government advice

The UK Government has issued advice for those with livestock and horses. Where a person is self-isolating they should not visit the animals. Someone who is not self-isolating should be responsible to care for the animals. If this is not possible, the basic needs of the animals need to be met. In doing so, the social distancing rules should be adhered to in addition to washing hands before and after handling animals.

Where there are no symptoms the period for daily exercise should be used to care for livestock. If a farrier has to be called, the best approach in dealing with the horse needs to be agreed and the social distancing rules must be enforced.

For further details go to: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-people-with-animals

MOTs for vehicles

From 30 March 2020, MOT due dates for cars, motorcycles and light vans will be extended by 6 months to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Please note however that for those whose MOT runs out before the 30th March or failed before this date must still take their vehicle for an MOT.

If the first MOT was due before 30 March 2020 and the vehicle did not pass:

  • The vehicle will not get an extension to its MOT due date
  • The vehicle will need to pass an MOT before you can drive it again.
  • The government is allowing MOT centres and garages to remain open.

This means that members can still get an MOT if the vehicle is needed:

  • to shop for basic necessities, for example, food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
  • for any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • to travel to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home

Further details can be found here.

New guidance on furloughed workers in Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

HMRC have updated the scheme for furloughed worked to enable more employees to benefit from the scheme. Previously you could only claim for workers that were on the payroll on 28 February so the scheme did not cover anyone who started working for you after that date.

This has been changed so that you can furlough and claim for employees that were on your PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020. The scheme is due to be fully operational next week.

If you made employees redundant, or they stopped working for you on or after 28 February 2020, you can re-employ them, put them on furlough and claim for their wages through the scheme. This applies to employees that were made redundant or stopped working for you after 28 February, even if you do not re-employ them until after 19 March.

Full details can be found here.

The CLA guidance for members and template letter are being updated accordingly, and a revised version will be available tomorrow.

New website launched for more on-farm labour

Defra has launched a new website for those looking for work on UK farms over the harvest period with recruiters who have roles to fill. The website will act as a hub to signpost people to the jobs available and to provide information about this type of work. It supports the CLA’s efforts for farms to source more UK-based labour through #FeedtheNation.

Further information can be found here.
 

Plant health checks

Defra announced on April 3 details for plant health traders on how to ensure plant supplies are maintained. This covers:

  • Accepting PDF copies of plant health phytosanitary certificates from certain originating countries
  • Delaying the wider rollout of the 1% checks programme of low risk produce from 3rd countries
  • Seeking to reduce the inspection requirements on produce not covered by the 1% programme to ensure stable supply of produce. This could reduce inspections by 20,000
  • Temporarily suspending inspections from those countries that have Approved Inspection Service accreditation
  • Seeking to ensure that inspections only take place on those products which are deemed high risk
  • Accepting electronic certificates of inspection for organic produce when they leave the third country.

Further details can be found: https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/assets/uploads/PH-Trade-Letter4.pdf

Red Tractor carries out inspections “online”

Red Tractor is to carry out live streamed farm audits to allow new applicants to be assessed and current members to retain their assurance status throughout the Covid-19 outbreak. All physical assessments were stopped in March in line with government advice.

The farm assurance scheme has been working with certification bodies and key stakeholders to deliver new solutions to allow audits to continue without the need for assessors to travel to farms.

Under the new remote assessment programme, farms due their assurance assessment, or new applicants, can either opt for an offline pre-assessment, followed by a live stream partial assessment using video calling or online meeting software such as WhatsApp, Blue Jeans, Zoom.

Members must send documentation to their assessor in advance, via Red Tractor’s portal or other secure file transfer site, to complete the offline pre-assessment. A video call will follow at an appropriate time, allowing assessors to carry out the visual assessment of the member’s site without needing to attend in person. Alternatively, members can opt to have the entire assessment, with all document reviews and inspections taking place, via a video call with an assessor.

Farmers who have successful remote assessments during this phase, will not be required to have an additional physical assessment outside of their normal audit cycle. Members of the Red Tractor scheme will be contacted by their certification body in due course to discuss the options available to them. For more information go to https://assurance.redtractor.org.uk/covid-19-hub.

Right to work in the UK checks

The Government has updated its guidance on right to work checks due to coronavirus to make it easier for employers to carry them out.

From 30 March 2020 the following temporary changes have been made:

  • checks can now be carried out over video calls
  • job applicants and existing workers can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
  • employers should use the Employer Checking Service if a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted documents

Checks continue to be necessary and employers must continue to check the prescribed documents listed in the right to work checks: an employer's guide. It remains an offence to knowingly employ anyone who does not have the right to work in the UK.

Rural Payments Agency Bank Account Changes

RPA staff need to access office services in order to change applicants' bank accounts. With the majority of staff homeworking this capability will be reduced to two days a week. A message will be placed on the helpline informing callers of when these days are.

If any CLA members need to make changes to their bank accounts ahead of BPS or CS deadlines then they are advised to do so as soon as possible.

Rural Payments Agency announces bridging payments for Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has announced that farmers and land managers will be offered bridging payments for unpaid claims on their stewardship agreements.

The interest-free loans will cover Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship 2019 payments. Eligible claimants will receive a payment in May for 75% of the current estimated value of their claims to help with farm business cash flow while the remaining processing is completed on their claims.

The RPA will be writing directly to farmers and land managers to provide an update on bridging payments and on how these payments will be calculated.

Supply of veterinary medicines

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) has provided an update on the supply of veterinary medicines. This involves a clear process including an intelligence-led warning system to detect potential problems at the earliest possible point and an emergency response plan to support the continued supply of veterinary medicines.

Manufacturers and suppliers of veterinary medicines also have measures in place to enable the continued production and supply of medicines. However, if a pharmaceutical company becomes aware of a current or potential problem with the supply of one of their products they should it to the VMD.

The VMD is encouraging veterinary surgeons and retailers to continue with normal purchasing patterns to maintain proportionate stocks of veterinary medicines to support the availability of medicines.

Three crop rule relaxed and new fund available after winter floods

The UK Government has announced that it is relaxing the three crop rule following the floods that have affected the country. The rule requires farmers who manage more than 30 hectares of arable land to grow at least three different crops on that land. Farmers with smaller land-holdings are also subject to crop diversification requirements. This follows concern that farmers who do not have access to their land as a result of flooding would not meet these requirements. However, the changes will apply to all farmers for 2020.

The UK Government is also to provide £6m in a new fund to support farmers recovering from flooding. This will be available through extending the Farming Recovery Fund. More details on how to apply will be available shortly.

More details on how to apply can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/farming-recovery-fund-2019-guidance-and-application-form

Veterinary Medicines Directorate Export Certificates being issued electronically

Defra has announced that due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) export certificates can only be issued electronically. The electronic export certificate will contain Defra's stamp and signature as usual for verification purposes. Members may print and email this certificate onto their contacts in the UK and overseas and will continue to receive the invoice via the usual means.

Any questions about this change to Defra's service should be sent via the VMD email address exportcert@vmd.gov.uk which is monitored during normal office hours (Mon-Fri, 8.30am-4pm). More information can be found:https://www.gov.uk/government/news/vmd-export-certificates-being-issued-electronically

Veterinary Medicines Directorate postpones inspections

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) is to postpone on-site inspections of veterinary medicines manufacturers, wholesale dealers, veterinary practice premises, SQP retailers, feed businesses and marketing authorisation holders (including pharmacovigilance systems) until further notice.

For further information email the VMD: inspections@vmd.gov.uk

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Digital connectivity and skills

BT Skills for Tomorrow support for society

BT has issued guidance on its Skills for Tomorrow programme as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. With large numbers of people are self-isolating or confined to their homes, it is vital that people with low or no digital skills can keep in touch with family and friends and access health services. The spread of COVID-19 presents significant challenges to small businesses. In addition, families with children at home from school will need to get the best out of technology to help their children to learn and play. Finally, many people need support as they work from home for the first time.

Working in partnership with leading digital skills organisations, the BT Skills for Tomorrow programme has free resources and information to help people with each of these challenges, For more information got to: www.bt.com/skillsfortomorrow

Free BT Webinars on digital skills

BT has included a number of webinars to help support small businesses improve their digital skills during the Covid-19 outbreak. The webinars are to help small business owners and their employees on a wide range of topics including digital marketing, using collaboration tools and how to get a business online. The webinars start on 9 April.

For more details go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/bt-skills-for-tomorrow-26823592931

Guidance from telecom infrastructure providers on access to land

Openreach, the largest telecoms infrastructure provider in the UK, has released guidance for its staff and contractors when working with customers. This is important for landowners as Openreach will require access to land when deploying the fibre network. Full details can be found here:https://www.openreach.com/covid-19-coronavirus

New Digital Skills platform launched

The Government has announced that a free digital skills platform is now available which gives people access to online courses including digital skills and numeracy. The aim is to improve the basic digital skills of users.

Courses on offer cover a range of levels, from everyday maths to tools for using email and social media more effectively at work.

To access the new digital skills toolkit, go to: https://theskillstoolkit.campaign.gov.uk/

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Forestry

Forestry Commission's latest advice

The Forestry Commission has confirmed that site visits will not take place during the outbreak. However, felling licence applications will still be processed online at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-online-for-a-felling-licence.

The suspension also applies to site visits for grant applications, and inspections for grant claims under the Woodland Carbon Fund, HS2 Woodland Fund and Urban Tree Challenge Fund. If a claim has recently been submitted but has yet to be inspected, the Forestry Commission will assess the situation and then contact the applicant. However, the suspension does not apply to critical tree health work.

Defra has made clear that the import and export trade can continue, which means that port inspections and export work will not be suspended. Regulated outbreak management on the eradication and containment of existing high priority pests, at the moment the Larger eight-toothed European spruce bark beetle and Oak Processionary Moth, is to continue.

For further information contact the Forestry Commission at: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/forestry-commission/about/access-and-opening#administrative-hubs

Forestry Commission operational update

The Forestry Commission is closing a number of offices as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. These are:

  • FC National Office: (Bristol)
  • FC Area Offices: Yorkshire and North East Area (York), North West and West Midlands Area (Penrith), East and East Midlands Area (Santon Downham), South East and London (Farnham) and South West (Bullers Hill).
  • FC Admin Hubs: East of England (Bucks Horn Oak) and West of England and Dedications (Bullers Hill – Haldon Forest)

Members are advised for the time being not to send post to or telephone any of these FC offices.

Site visits for grant applications have been suspended and grant claims will be processed but will take longer than usual. Felling licenses using felling licences online will continue to be processed. If restrictions continue, FC will investigate ways to continue the service without site visits.

Illegal felling investigations will continue – reports should be emailed to local area offices.

For felling licences, legacy grant agreements or cases of illegal felling, members should use the Admin Hub email addresses below:

  • Bucks Horn Oak: adminhub.buckshornoak@forestrycommission.gov.uk
  • Bullers Hill: adminhub.bullershill@forestrycommission.gov.uk

Grants and funds: for the following schemes, contact:

  • Woodland Carbon fund: wcf@forestrycommission.gov.uk
  • Woodland Creation Planning Grant: wcpg@forestrycommission.gov.uk
  • Urban Tree Challenge Fund utcf@forestrycommission.gov.uk
  • HS2 Woodland Fund hs2woodlandfund@forestrycommission.gov.uk
  • Countryside Stewardship – FC are working with RPA and Natural England on the impact of COVID-19 on Stewardship applications. They will communicate more detail soon.

Tree pests and diseases: to report these members should continue to use the Tree Alert.

Import and export queries (wood and timber products): contact plant.health@forestrycommission.gov.uk.

Port inspections and export work are deemed essential to enable import and export trade to continue. Regulated outbreak management of some high-priority tree pests will also continue, including oak processionary moth and the larger eight-toothed European spruce bark beetle.

Forestry England has also made it clear that the public do not travel to forests at this time. Forestry England has closed car parks where it is possible to do so. For more information, visit the Forestry England website.

Forest Research main sites at Alice Holt in Surrey and the Northern Research Station near Edinburgh are open, but on reduced hours. All other sites are closed with most staff working from home. Some staff are doing essential work unable to be done from home, such as, tree health research and responding to plant health emergencies to support UK trade.

Forestry Commission update

The Forestry Commission has updated its operational guidance during the Covid-19 outbreak. This means that:

  • The Forestry Commission is now offering some priority regulatory site visits;
  • Private forestry works can continue;
  • The one month extension to annual claims announced by Defra from 15 May to 15 June also applies to schemes for farm woodland activity;
  • Woodland officers are now able to give Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier advice remotely for applications. However, this only applies until the application deadline that remains at 1 May. Woodland creation & management grants are now part of the Countryside Stewardship scheme;
  • CS Higher Tier applicants who think they will have problems meeting the 1 May deadline should contact RPA directly.

For more information, go to the Forestry Commission's website.

Latest guidance from the Forestry Commission on felling licences

Latest guidance from the Forestry Commission on felling licences

The Forestry Commission has updated its guidance on how to apply online for felling licences. This provides a simple step by step guide on:

  • How to get started;
  • Applying online; and,
  • Further available support.

Further details can be found here.

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Government advice

Cleaning in a non-healthcare environment

Public Health England has set out some practical guidance for how to clean in a non-healthcare setting. It covers areas such as:

  • the importance of hygiene;
  • the most effective use of disinfectants;
  • how to clean an area which may have come into contact with someone with Covid-19 symptoms; and,
  • What needs to be done with laundry and waste

For more information, click here.

Latest advice from the UK Government

The Government has created a new website with the latest available information on government measures dealing with the outbreak as well as educational information on how to cope with the new measures.

Further details can be found here.

Latest advice on visa sponsors

The Government has now issued advice for those who are sponsoring students or employees who are affected by Covid-19. These affect those who are registered within Tier 2, 4 or 5 of the immigration system.

The advice covers:

  • Absences of students or employees due to Covid-19
  • Sponsored students who are distance learning
  • Students who are sponsored and awaiting a decision on a Tier 4 visa
  • Sponsored employees working from home
  • Employers who are unable to pay salaries to sponsored employees due to the business ceasing trading

Further details can be found here

Business, premises or place

Exceptions

Food and drink

Restaurants

Food delivery and takeaways

Cafes, including workplace canteens

Food delivery and takeaway can remain operational. Cafés or canteens at hospitals, care homes or schools; prison and military canteens; services providing food or drink to the homeless

Public houses

 

Bars and nightclubs, including bars in hotels or members' clubs

 

Retail

Hair, beauty and nail salons, including piercing and tattoo parlours

 

Massage parlours

 

All retail with notable exceptions

Supermarkets and other food shops, health shops, pharmacies including non-dispensing pharmacies, petrol stations, bicycle shops, home and hardware shops, laundrettes and dry cleaners, bicycle shops, garages, car rentals, pet shops, corner shops, newsagents, post offices, and banks.

Outdoor and indoor markets

Market stalls which offer essential retail, such as grocery and food.

Auction houses

 

Car showrooms

 

Hotels

Hotels, hostels, BnBs, campsites and boarding houses for commercial use

Where people live in these as interim abodes whilst their primary residence is unavailable they may continue to do so.

Key workers can continue to stay in hotels or similar where required.

Caravan parks/sites for commercial uses

Where people live permanently in caravan parks or are staying in caravan parks as interim abodes where their primary residence is not available, they may continue to do so.

Non-residential institutions

Libraries

 

Community centres, youth centres and similar

Facilities may remain open for the purpose of hosting essential voluntary or public services, such as food banks or homeless services.

The Government will do everything to support vulnerable people who are without a network of friends and families.

Places of worship for services

Funerals following the social distancing guidance; places of worship should remain open for solitary prayer.

Live streaming of a service without audience would be permissible.

Cinemas, theatres and concert halls

Live streaming of a performance by a small group could be permissible with social distancing observed.

Assembly and leisure

Museums and galleries

 

Bingo halls, casinos and betting shops

 

Spas

 

Skating rinks

 

Fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools or other indoor leisure centres

 

Arcades, bowling alleys, soft play centres and similar

 

Outdoor recreation

Enclosed spaces in parks, including playgrounds, sports courts and pitches, and outdoor gyms or similar

 

This means that hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use (excluding permanent residents and key workers) have been ordered to close with immediate effect. You should check with your insurance broker as to how the new measures affect your cover.

Food Standards Agency sets out re-opening guidance for food businesses

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published a checklist for those food businesses seeking to re-open during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Businesses should review the Food Safety Management System that is in place to identify risks and these should be recorded in the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) register. The review needs to also consider all changes to the business’s processes and services connected with Covid-19 which could include changes to production, workflow management, staffing, customer interactions and any required control measures.

The FSA checklist covers:

  • the planning and preparation for start-up;
  • site checks;
  • equipment checks;
  • ingredient and product checks;
  • implementing and enforcing social distancing measures.

The complete checklist can be downloaded here.

Government advice for food businesses

The Government has now issued further guidance for food businesses during the Covid-19 outbreak. This includes guidance on food hygiene, the application of social distancing and managing employee sickness. Full details can be found:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-food-businesses/guidance-for-food-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19

Government announces new fiscal measures

On 20 March the Chancellor announced further temporary measures to support people and business during the period of disruption caused by COVID-19.

Government extends mortgage holiday

The Government has agreed to extend the mortgage holiday for borrowers that was initially put in place to help those in financial difficulty as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. The initial period ends in June.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has now proposed new guidance which provides for a full extension of the mortgage holiday for another three months. It also sets out the expectations for lenders and the options available to their customers. This includes extending the application period for a mortgage holiday until 31 October so customers that have not yet had a payment holiday and are experiencing financial difficulty will be able to request one. The current ban on repossessions of homes will be continued to the same date.

Mortgage lenders will be expected to contact their customers whose mortgage holiday is coming to an end. Some may be able to resume their full monthly payments, others may be able to pay a proportion of their monthly payment, or temporarily switch to an interest only mortgage, and others will opt to extend their mortgage payment holiday.

Borrowers that resume with their mortgage payments will be given options on how best to do so, such as the opportunity to extend the term of their mortgage in order to leave their monthly payments at around the same level as they were prior to their mortgage holiday.

The current ban on repossessions of homes will continue to 31 October 2020.

Further details on the proposed guidance can be found here.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The scheme also covers employees who were made redundant since 28 February 2020, if they are re-hired by their employer. To be eligible for the subsidy, when on furlough, an employee can not undertake work for or on behalf of the business. This includes providing services or generating revenue. While on furlough, the employee's wage will be subject to usual income tax and other deductions.

Further details on the job retention scheme can be found here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme and here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme.

Our member-only advice note explains the full range of business support measures and how they affect your business. To see whether you are eligible, and guidance on the process, please click here (LOGIN REQUIRED).

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: Furloughed workers can now take on other work

Following extensive lobbying by the CLA, the Government has now revised the rules relating to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme that will allow those workers who have been placed on furlough to be able to take on other work outside their normal employment.

The revised rules state that if the employee's contract allows, that worker can take on other employment. This will not affect the grant that can be claimed under the scheme. The grant is capped at £2,500. However, the employee will need to be able to return to work for their original employer if the furlough is stopped.

Those furloughed workers who wish to take up additional paid employment need to complete the scheme's starter checklist form with their new employer and follow the rules set out under the job retention scheme.

A member-only guidance note will be posted on the CLA website: www.cla.org.uk

Full details can be found: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

The government has announced that the online service for small and medium-sized employers to recover Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payments they have made to their employees due to coronavirus, will be launched on 26 May.

This means that they will receive repayments at the relevant rate of SSP that they have paid to current or former employees for eligible periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020. To prepare to make their claim, employers should keep records of all the SSP payments that they wish to claim from HMRC.

The updated guidance can be found here.

Defra announces new fund for dairy producers

Dairy farmers in England will now be able to access up to £10,000 to provide support for those severely affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. Many dairy farmers have seen the value of their milk cheques fall significantly due to the closure of the food service sector. As a result, unwanted milk has had to be disposed of, putting dairy businesses at severe risk.

Although competition rules have been relaxed to allow retailers, suppliers and logistic services to work together so that milk supply can be redirected, the new fund is intended to ease problems resulting from the loss of income. It aims to provide support for eligible dairy farmers of up to £10,000 each, to cover 70% of their lost income during April and May.

The government has also announced a £1 million campaign to boost milk consumption and help producers use surplus stock.

Details on how to access the new fund will be released when available.

Deferral of VAT payments

The government is deferring VAT payments for 3 months (from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020). No application is needed and this will apply to all VAT registered businesses. VAT returns will still need to be submitted during this period as HMRC will continue to pay refunds and reclaims during this period. Any VAT liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period will have to be paid at the end of the 2020/21 tax year.

Deferral of income tax payments for the self-employed

Self-employed taxpayers normally pay their income tax in two instalments; on 31 January and 31 July. The income tax payment due on 31 July has been deferred to 31 January 2021. No application is needed to benefit from the deferral and no penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.

Government Covid-19 roadmap: Economic support measures 

The roadmap states that the Government intends to “carefully wind down the economic support measures while people are eased back to work.” To put this into effect, the Government has now announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended from the end of June to the end of October. 

Employers will now be permitted to furlough staff on a part time basis. The Government will continue to pay 80% of a furloughed workers salary to a cap of £2,500 up to July. For the following three months (August, September and October), the rate of payment will remain at 80% but businesses will be required to make a contribution to this rate. More details are still to be announced and will be made available on the CLA website. The CLA member briefings on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme are being updated and will be available on the CLA website.  

CLA view

The CLA has been lobbying Government to extend the economic support schemes, and we are pleased to see that these concerns have been addressed. This lobbying will continue and we will seek to ensure that the Government’s measures continue to support rural businesses in the short, medium and long term. 

Government guidance on the Covid-19 roadmap

The Government has issued a document giving details on the Covid-19 “roadmap” following the Prime Minister’s statement on Sunday 10 May. Associated guidance was then published on 12 May. The CLA has produced a members’ briefing note that sets out the main changes to the Covid-19 lockdown and how this will affect members.

The briefing covers:

  • The Government’s 3 step phased approach to easing the Covid-19 lockdown in England;
  • The rules on what can now be done outdoors and the restrictions that are still in place;
  • The types of businesses that can now reopen;
  • How the guidance affects rural tourism businesses, especially those in the accommodation sector;
  • Changes to the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

To download this briefing note, click here.

Government issues guidance for re-opening household waste and recycling centres

The Government is encouraging Local Authorities to open sites to avoid the build-up of waste in homes and businesses and reduce the opportunity for fly-tipping as long as social distancing measures are enforced.

Members of the public can travel to a centre if the waste in their home presents a risk of injury or a risk to public health or the local environment under the rules of the lockdown. The updated guidance sets out how Local Authorities could manage access and the number of people who are able to be on site at any one time.

The guidance stresses that the decision to re-open remains that of Local Authorities given that they will recognise the practicalities of adhering to social distancing requirements at any one site.

The guidance covers:

  • Why household waste and recycling centres should be re-opened or maintained and the types of materials accepted;
  • Guidance to help Local Authorities re-open sites;
  • Types of messaging to the general public

For more information, click here

Government WhatsApp service

The Government has started a Whatsapp information service providing information on topics such as coronavirus prevention and symptoms, the latest number of cases in the UK, advice on staying at home, travel advice and myth-busting via a chatbot.

To use this free service, simply add 07860 064422 in your phone contacts and then message the word 'hi' in a WhatsApp message to get started. Full details can be found: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-launches-coronavirus-information-service-on-whatsapp

Latest Government guidance on discretionary grant fund

The Government has announced that Local Authorities are to receive a further £617m as a top up to the small business grants scheme.

This new money is being aimed at small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs and the Government has stressed that local authorities should 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. Local authorities, however, can choose to make payments to other businesses based on local economic need with the allocation of funding at the discretion of local authorities.

To qualify businesses must be small, under 50 employees, and they must also be able to demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop of income due to Covid-19 measures.

For a small business to be eligible, it must meet two or more of the following requirements in a year:

  • A total turnover or not more than £10.2 million
  • A total balance sheet of not more than £5.1 million
  • Less than 50 employees

For a micro business to be eligible, it must meet two or more of the following requirements:

  • A total turnover or not more than £632,000
  • A total balance sheet of not more than £316,000
  • Less than 10 employees

There will be three levels of grant payments. The maximum will be £25,000. There will also be grants of £10,000 and local authorities will have discretion to make payments of any amount under £10,000. It will be for councils to adapt this approach to local circumstances.

Local authorities will need to establish an application process in order to determine who would be eligible for the grant. It is very likely that application forms will be available, as will detailed guidance on how to apply, on Local Authority websites.

Government guidance for Local Authorities is now available here.

New border measures announced to contain spread of infection

From 8 June, new measures will be in force to contain the potential spread of Covid-19 from international visitors to the UK. These include:

  • All visitors will be required to enter a period of self-isolation for 14 days when they enter the UK;
  • They will need to complete a Contact Locator form so that they can be contacted if they, or anyone else they may have been inContact with, develops Covid-19;
  • Anyone failing to comply with the new measures can be fined or imprisoned;
  • UK Border Force will undertake checks at the border and can refuse entry to non-UK citizens who fails to comply with the measures.

Visitors self-isolating will be required to provide details of their self-isolation accommodation. If this does not meet the necessary requirements - such as hotels, or with friends or family - they will be required to self-isolate in facilities arranged by the government.

There is a list of visitors who are exempt from the measures. These include:

  • road haulage and freight workers, to ensure the supply of goods is not impacted;
  • medical professionals who are travelling to help with the fight against coronavirus;
  • anyone moving from within the Common Travel Area, covering Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man;
  • Seasonal Agricultural Workers who will self-isolate on the property where they are working.

Further details can be found here.

New ministerial taskforces announced 

The Government is to create five new Ministerial Taskforces will look at how to support the restarting of the most impacted sectors of the economy. Three of these taskforces are tourism related, emphasising the severity of the Covid-19 outbreak on the sector.

Tourism as a sector is part of the Recreation and Leisure Taskforce. The Tourism Industry Council, which the CLA sits on, is now the Visitor Economy Working Group of this taskforce. The aim of the working group will be to develop guidance to support the restart of tourism businesses.

The Five Taskforces are:

  • Pubs and Restaurants (led by Department for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy)
  • Non-essential Retail (including salons) (Department for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy)
  • Recreation and Leisure, including tourism, culture and heritage, libraries, entertainment and sport (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)
  • Places of Worship (Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government)
  • International Aviation, reflecting the unique challenges that sector is facing (Department for Transport)

For more information go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-announces-roadmap-taskforces

PPE use and disposal

The Government has published new guidance for employers and employees on safety in the workplace and guidance regarding the use of face coverings. This includes:

  • throw away any used PPE (gloves and face masks) in residual ‘black bag’ waste at home or whilst at work, or a litter bin if outside;
  • do not put used PPE (gloves and face masks) in a recycling bin. These cannot be recycled through conventional recycling facilities;
  • do not purchase medical-grade masks or respirators. These are prioritised for healthcare workers working in more high-risk environments;
  • people are encouraged to make face coverings at home, using scarves or other textile items that you already own. Further guidance can be found here
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed in line with manufacturer’s instructions. Properly dispose home-made face coverings in black bag waste or equivalent;
  • Anyone self-isolating at home with confirmed or suspected COVID 19 should continue to place all personal waste materials, including any PPE worn at home, in the black bags. It should be double-bagged, making sure the bags are securely tied, then stored for 72 hours before placing it out for collection.

Prime Minister sets out Covid-19 roadmap

In a televised address to the UK, the Prime Minister, Rt Hon. Boris Johnson, set out the government’s provisional roadmap in dealing with the Covid-19 lockdown and the period post lockdown.

He made it clear that this was a sketch map and would be dictated by science. He stressed the importance of continuing to reduce the R number – the rate of infection – that is currently between 0.5 and 0.9, to a level where it is clear the virus is beginning to weaken. As a result, the Prime Minister said that the plan is conditional and must meet the government’s five tests before the lockdown and social distancing measures can be fully relaxed.

A number of changes, in three steps, have been announced:

  • Step 1:
    • Those in certain sectors, such as construction and manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work from today
    • Avoid public transport, where at all possible, when going to work and follow the social distancing rules
    • As from Wednesday, members of the public will be able to take unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise as long as social distancing rules are met
  • Step 2:
    • By Monday,1 June at the earliest, some children may be able to return to school and some shops may be able to reopen
  • Step 3:
    • By Wednesday, 1 July at the earliest, some hospitality venues may be able to reopen if social distancing can be respected. However, this does not include public houses.

In Wales, the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, announced that any relaxation of the lockdown would be limited. However, he did state that garden centres will be allowed to reopen today.

More details on the roadmap are due to be released by the Government today. The CLA will be assessing that detail and will set out what these mean for rural businesses and communities.

Social distancing - new UK Government measures to enforce social distancing

The Government has updated guidance on how best for businesses to undertake social distancing in order to protest workers and customers during the outbreak.

The new guidance covers the following sectors:

  • Farming: visiting farms for animal health and welfare
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing and processing businesses
  • Transport businesses
  • Logistics businesses
  • Waste management businesses

Full details of the revised guidance can be found here.

Operational updates for the Environment Agency

The Environment Agency has set out operational updates on how it will work during the outbreak. Full details can be found here.

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Government roadmap: What the changes mean in step one

The Government issued details on the Covid-19 “roadmap” following the Prime Minister’s statement on Sunday 10 May. Associated guidance was then published on 12 May. The Government has stressed that the roadmap, and its success, will be dictated by science. It is important for the R number – the rate of infection – that is currently between 0.5 and 0.9, falls to a level where it is clear the virus is beginning to weaken. This means that the roadmap is conditional and must meet the government’s five tests before the lockdown and social distancing measures can be fully relaxed.

A complete CLA members briefing will be available on the CLA website on Friday 15 May.

The Government has set out three steps that set out what will be allowed and which lockdown measures are still in force. Here, we examine what Step 1 means for rural businesses and the rural economy.

Government advice states that the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside. This has led to a number of changes that will be allowed from Wednesday 13 May. These are:

spending time outdoors – for example sitting and enjoying the fresh air, picnicking, or sunbathing;

meeting one other person from a different household outdoors - following social distancing guidelines;

exercising outdoors as often as you wish - following social distancing guidelines;

using outdoor sports courts or facilities, such as a tennis court or golf course – with members of the same household, or one other person while staying 2 metres apart

going to a garden centre;

Estate Agents can reopen and conveyancing businesses can recommence trading.

Social distancing rules are still in force and the public must stay at least 2 metres away from each other. 

There are no changes to the following activities and the public is still not be able to:

visit friends and family in their homes

exercise in an indoor sports court, gym or leisure centre, or go swimming in a public pool

use an outdoor gym or playground

gather in a group of more than two (excluding members of your own household), except for a few specific exceptions set out in law (for work, funerals, house moves, supporting the vulnerable, in emergencies and to fulfil legal obligations).

The Covid-19 Secure Guidelines

Many measures will require the development of new safety guidelines, including risk assessments, that set out how each type of physical space can be adapted to operate safely. The Department for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has now published the secure guidelines relating to:

  • construction and other outdoor work;
  • factories, plants and warehouses;
  • other people's homes;
  • labs and research facilities;
  • offices and contact centres
  • restaurants offering takeaway or delivery;
  • shops and branches; and,
  • vehicles.

All employers must carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment. This must be in written form unless the employer has less than 5 employees or are self-employed. An employer also has a duty to consult with their workers on Health and Safety. 

Employers have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risks to their Health and Safety, and should consider the risks and do everything practicable to minimise the risks, although it is recognised that the risks cannot be completely eliminated. 

The guidance notes provide clear guidance on what should be considered. This includes:

  • Priority preventable actions - such as more hand washing, social distancing and disinfecting
  • Who should go to work – Everyone should be treated the same, but consideration should be given to working from home where possible, protecting people at higher risk and need to self-isolate. 
  • Social distancing at work – making the workplace safe, meetings, common areas, dealing with incidents
  • Managing customers, visitors and contractors – including providing guidance
  • Cleaning and sanitising the workplace – what is required before reopening, and on-going hygiene actions
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings – workplaces should not encourage the use of precautionary face coverings outside clinical settings. 
  • Managing your workforce – actions for shift-patterns and working groups, and communication and training.
  • Inbound and outbound goods – to ensure social distancing at busy areas. 

The guidance also signposts further information and risk assessment tools from the Health and Safety Executive. 

For more information go to: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/updates 

Day trips will be allowed

Day trips to outdoor open space, in a private vehicle, are allowed. Again, the social distancing rules must be met. 

But people will not be allowed to stay at another home for a holiday or any other purpose and this includes visiting second homes. This means that businesses such as holiday cottages, caravan parks, hotels and bed and breakfasts will remain closed, unless they are providing accommodation for specific reasons, such as for key and critical workers. 

Position of wedding ceremonies to be reviewed

There is no change and weddings are not allowed to take place. However, as long as progress is made in reducing the spread of Covid-19, the Government has said that small wedding ceremonies could take place from 1 June. The Government will be producing further guidance in the next few weeks.

Rules for returning to work

The Government has stressed that those who can work at home should continue to do so. However, where work can only be done in the workplace, the government has set out guidelines for employers to help protect the workforce and customers from coronavirus while still continuing to trade or getting the business operational once more. More information on these guidelines can be found: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/u... 

The ‘back to work’ guidelines apply to those in essential trades, such as:

  • supermarkets;
  • construction and manufacturing;
  • workers in labs and research facilities;
  • workers in food production and the supply chain;
  • administering takeaways and deliveries at restaurants and cafes;
  • tradesmen, cleaners and others who work in people’s homes;
  • workers facilitating trade or transport goods.

However, non-essential retail, restaurants, pubs, bars, gyms and leisure centres are to remain closed and will be covered under Step 3.

The conveyancing sector

The Government has set out plans to allow estate property letting agents to operate again. Under the new guidance estate agents can reopen, viewings can be carried out and removal firms and conveyancers can restart operations. Social distancing rules must be met.

However, the property market remains closed in Wales and private viewings are not permitted. 

Face masks and face coverings

Face masks or coverings are not deemed compulsory by the government. However, people are advised to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces where social distancing is not possible or where they are more likely to come into contact with people they would not normally meet. 

International visitors arriving in the UK

The Government will require all international arrivals that are not exempt to self-isolate in their accommodation for 14 days on arrival into the UK. Where international travellers are unable to demonstrate where they would self-isolate, they will be required to do so in accommodation arranged by the Government.

The Government is preparing more detailed guidance and this will be put onto the CLA website when available.

CLA view

The CLA advocated in its proposals for restarting the economy that rural businesses which present lower risks should be prioritised in a phased, risk-based approach to the reopening of business. We welcome the fact that the Government has adopted this approach, and has included a number of outdoors activities in its first phase of reopening.

We fully accept that businesses should only be permitted to reopen according to the latest scientific advice. It is incumbent on all of us to ensure that health of the general public is not jeopardised.

However, the government guidance on the roadmap and how it applies to businesses that come within step 1 still requires clarity. 

The CLA is calling for:

  • Clear guidance on how the new access arrangements will be administered. We know that the new guidelines on outdoor activities are different between England and Wales and it is important that the public is made fully aware of these differences; 
  • Clarity from government as to what day trippers should do when they visit rural areas. Although some amenities may now be open, many other facilities, such as toilets, may not be. It is important that the government make clear that people should check before they travel, not travel on spec and stay local if at all possible;
  • Businesses to be made fully aware of the guidelines for those sectors, such as construction, agriculture and manufacturing, that are either already operating or about to restart operation. Many businesses are not able to shut down trading one day and then reopen the next. They require suitable notice periods which are nuanced as no one business is the same. We had made that point to Government in advance and have expressed our disappointment at the short notice given this time.
  • Businesses to conduct risk assessments in line with HSE guidelines. This is vital to retain the confidence of workers and the general public. But risk assessments have to be mandatory and effective. The CLA believes that industries need to work together to design risk assessments that cater for the needs of businesses, are simple to complete and underline safe practice at all times.

Government roadmap: What the changes mean in step two

The Government issued details on the Covid-19 “roadmap” following the Prime Minister’s statement on Sunday 10 May. Associated guidance was then published on 12 May. The Government has stressed that the roadmap, and its success, will be dictated by science. It is important for the R number – the rate of infection – that is currently between 0.5 and 0.9, falls to a level where it is clear the virus is beginning to weaken. This means that the roadmap is conditional and must meet the government’s five tests before the lockdown and social distancing measures can be fully relaxed.

A complete CLA members briefing will be available on the CLA website on Friday 15 May.

Step 2

The government has set out three steps that set out what will be allowed and which lockdown measures are still in force. Here, we examine what Step 2 means for rural businesses and the rural economy.

If government scientific advice points to a continued weakening of the R number and it can be shown that Covid-19 is beginning to decline, the Government will put in place measures that will relax the lockdown further.

The reopening of certain schools

There is intended to be a phased return for primary school aged children from 1 June. The aim is for children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to be back in school in smaller sizes, from 1 June. 

Secondary schools and further education colleges will prepare to begin some face to face contact with Year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year, to support continued remote, home learning. The Government is aiming for all primary school children to return to school before the summer for a month if feasible, but this will be reviewed. 

Only certain types of shop will be allowed to reopen

Certain non-essential retail shops will be allowed to reopen in phases from 1 June. They must be able to meet the new Covid-19 Secure guidelines when they reopen. More guidance on which types of shop will be allowed to reopen is to be made available shortly. This will include how the phasing approach will apply.

This means that all other sectors that are currently closed, including hospitality and personal care, will not be able to re-open at this point as it is believed the risk of transmission in these environments is higher.

Government roadmap: What the changes mean in step three

The Government issued details on the Covid-19 “roadmap” following the Prime Minister’s statement on Sunday 10 May. Associated guidance was then published on 12 May. The Government has stressed that the roadmap, and its success, will be dictated by science. It is important for the R number – the rate of infection – that is currently between 0.5 and 0.9, falls to a level where it is clear the virus is beginning to weaken. This means that the roadmap is conditional and must meet the government’s five tests before the lockdown and social distancing measures can be fully relaxed.

A complete CLA members briefing will be available on the CLA website on Friday 15 May.

Step 3

The government has set out three steps that set out what will be allowed and which lockdown measures are still in force. Here, we examine what Step 3 means for rural businesses and the rural economy.

Hospitality and tourism businesses reopening

The government will begin to implement Step 3 when the scientific advice permits but not before 4 July. This should include some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to close, including personal care (such as hairdressers and beauty salons) hospitality (such as food service providers, pubs and accommodation), public places (such as places of worship) and leisure facilities (gyms and cinemas). 

These businesses must be able to meet the new COVID-19 Secure guidelines. For more information go to: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/u...

If they cannot, they will not be allowed to reopen or may only be reopened in part. The government has said it will carefully phase and pilot re-openings to test the ability of the business to adopt the new COVID-19 Secure guidelines. It will also monitor the effects of re-opening other similar establishments elsewhere in the world in order to guide best practice. 

CLA view

We have noted the government’s scientific advice that outside areas have a significantly lower infection rate than those outdoors. Given that this is the case, and the government has said that it wants to pilot and monitor re-openings, we believe that certain categories of rural tourism businesses should be permitted to begin trading again during the Step 2 phase (1 June – 3 July). 

Whilst we recognise the UK Government’s concerns over the potential for Covid-19 hotspots, if businesses fully comply with guidance on social distancing, meet hygiene requirements and adopt a consistent message, we believe self-catering accommodation which meets the criteria outlined in our Re-starting the economy in rural areas paper should be part of this pilot. It is essential that the Government provides clear guidance in collaboration with the tourism industry that will allow these businesses to again make a sizeable contribution to the nation’s economy. Following consultations with members, we are advocating a self-certification scheme, and will be working with other tourism organisations to ensure it works in rural as well as urban contexts.

Government announces 5 step guide to working safely

In addition to the 8 guidance documents that it has published so far regarding safe working in different environments, the Government has published a “5 Steps to Working Safely” that apply to all working environments.

1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment

Before restarting work you should ensure the safety of the workplace by:

  • carrying out a risk assessment in line with the HSE guidance
  • consulting with your workers or trade unions
  • sharing the results of the risk assessment with your workforce and on your website

2. Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures

You should increase the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning by:

  • encouraging people to follow the guidance on hand washing and hygiene
  • providing hand sanitiser around the workplace, in addition to washrooms
  • frequently cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are touched regularly
  • enhancing cleaning for busy areas
  • setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets
  • providing hand drying facilities – either paper towels or electrical dryers

3. Help people to work from home

You should take all reasonable steps to help people work from home by:

  • discussing home working arrangements
  • ensuring they have the right equipment, for example remote access to work systems
  • including them in all necessary communications
  • looking after their physical and mental wellbeing

4. Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible

Where possible, you should maintain 2m between people by:

  • putting up signs to remind workers and visitors of social distancing guidance
  • avoiding sharing workstations
  • using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep to a 2m distance
  • arranging one-way traffic through the workplace if possible
  • switching to seeing visitors by appointment only if possible

5. Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk

Where it’s not possible for people to be 2m apart, you should do everything practical to manage the transmission risk by:

  • considering whether an activity needs to continue for the business to operate
  • keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • using back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible
  • staggering arrival and departure times
  • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’

We would like members to contact the CLA regarding their thoughts on how they are intending to reopen when they are permitted to do so and how they intend to meet the government guidelines. Please send your comments to charles.trotman@cla.org.uk

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Landlords and tenants

Residential landlords and tenants

The UK Government has announced that there will be “mortgage holidays” for those affected by Covid-19. The UK Government has also announced an emergency package of measures for the private rented sector.

The UK Government statement says that e mergency legislation will be taken forward as an urgent priority so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period.

Recognising the additional pressures the virus may put on landlords, the UK Government has confirmed that the three month mortgage payment holiday already announced will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus. This will alleviate the pressure on landlords, who will be concerned about meeting mortgage payments themselves.

More details on the emergency measures can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters

Residential landlords - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

During this difficult and unprecedented time, the CLA is encouraging our members to work positively with fellow landlords, tenants and professionals. To support our members, we will be putting together a number of FAQs which cover both the financial and management concerns of residential landlord's as a result of Covid-19.

If you have any immediate concerns, please contact your CLA regional office.

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Mental and Physical wellbeing

Anxiety and wellbeing

Running a farming business can be demanding at the best of times. Additional health and financial worries caused by Coronavirus could make it an even more stressful time, and it's important not to suffer in silence.

Two charitable bodies are here to help:

The Farm Community Network (helpline: tel 03000 111999: https://fcn.org.uk/)

RABI (helpline: tel 0808 2819490: https://rabi.org.uk/)

Government launches plan to tackle loneliness

The Government has announced a new plan to tackle the problem of loneliness during the Covid-19 lockdown. As part of a new £750m package to support charities, the £5m #Let’sTalkLoneliness public campaign has been rolled out to get people talking openly about loneliness.

More information can be found here.

Mental health and wellbeing

The Government has set out guidance to help protect the mental health of business owners and employees. Suggestions to help people to cope include:

  • Consider how to connect with other
  • Help and support others
  • Talk about your worries
  • Look after your physical wellbeing and look after your sleep
  • Manage your media and information intake and get the facts to stay up to date
  • Think about your new daily routine
  • Try to keep your mind active

Full details of the guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-public-on-mental-health-and-wellbeing

Keep up to date and communicate

It is important for all businesses to keep up to date with the latest information from the Government, including public health authorities: The government will update its advice on Coronavirus daily and businesses need to be aware that they may need to change how the business operates. Government advice can be found here: www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

The CLA will be providing the latest information as COVID-19 develops so bookmark this webpage (https://www.cla.org.uk/coronavirus).

During this period of the outbreak how the business communicates with its employees, customers and suppliers will be very important. Employees will need to know where the business stands, what could happen in the future and how they are protected.

Along with employees, business customers and suppliers will need to be kept regularly informed as to what is happening. Opening a two-way conversation with customers and suppliers can give that element of reassurance they need.

One of the best ways of doing this is through your website as this will be the place many people will go first of all. The website should always be up to date and accurate.

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Rural Business Measures

£1m grant scheme to support local seafood businesses launched

The government has launched a new scheme aimed at providing greater resilience in the local seafood supply chain in England. The scheme is administered by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

Businesses in the fishing, aquaculture and fish processing industries are eligible to apply.

The scheme is asking for projects that:

  • Maintain the availability of fisheries products through innovative regional distribution;
  • Support the development of infrastructure to sell fish landed into English ports, or fish processed in England, to domestic consumers;
  • Help develop the infrastructure necessary for the catching and processing sectors to connect directly with consumers (e.g. either through online platforms or through facilitation on the ground);
  • Have the potential to generate longer-term sustainable benefit to the seafood industry, creating supply chain resilience.
  • Defra is also working on other support for the aquaculture sector under the Fisheries Response Fund (FRF) with more information to be announced.

For more details can be found here.

Bank of England reduces interest rates

Following on from the new fiscal measures announced by the Chancellor earlier this week, the Bank of England has cut interest rates from 0.25% to 0.1% which will aid easier borrowing. The Bank is also to buy up £200bn of government and corporate bonds in order to further reduce the cost of borrowing.

Business closures and restricted business operating

The Government has now updated the type of businesses that should close. There are a number of new exceptions that members should be aware, including open markets (outdoor and indoor) if they are selling food or groceries. The full guidance can be found: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance

The Enforcement of Business Closures

The legal requirement forcing listed businesses to close (restaurants, pubs etc) came into force on 21stMarch. Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers, with police support if appropriate, will work together to issue prohibition notices challenging unsafe behaviours where businesses do not follow these restrictions. This fines for non-compliance are unlimited. Further details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-sets-out-plans-to-enforce-closure-of-businesses-and-other-venues--2

Permission for Pubs and Restaurants to Operate as Takeaways

The government is introducing a time-limited permitted development right through secondary legislation to allow the temporary change of use of a pub (A4 - drinking establishment) and a restaurant (A3 - restaurants and cafes) to a hot-food take away for a period of up to 12 months. Full details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-to-grant-permission-for-pubs-and-restaurants-to-operate-as-takeaways-as-part-of-coronavirus-response

Business Finance

Small Business Grants Fund

Guidance for local authorities setting out details of the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) has now been published. The changes outline information on state aid, monitoring and reporting requirements, post payment checks, and the eligibility of charities.

Further information can be found here.

Following the Chancellor's Budget £330bn was made available to provide government backed and guaranteed loan facility. This was due to obe made available from Monday 23 March for any business that needs finance to pay rents, salaries and suppliers.

The maximum amount of lending to each business under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme announced at the Budget was increased from £1.2m to £5m. Government has said that finance will be offered on attractive terms. This includes an interest-free period for the first 6 months.

Business insurance

If your business is having to close, or there is a possibility that it may need to close as a result of Covid-19, there are a number of things you need to consider:

Check the wording of the insurance policy to see if you have business interruption cover. Business interruption insurance covers the income that is lost as a result of the outbreak.

Check that this covers notifiable diseases with your insurer. The UK Government has declared Covid-19 a notifiable disease;

If your insurance does not cover notifiable disease, it may be possible for this to be added. However, the insurer has a right to refuse and it is very possible you will need to pay an additional premium.

Many CLA members will be worried about whether their insurance will protect them from some of the financial effects of Covid-19. As well as consulting their policy documents, we encourage members to visit the Q&A page from the Association of British Insurers.

Business rates and grant funding

The Government has now published further guidance to local authorities on business rate discounts that have been introduced as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. The new guidance makes clear that the retail discount is not state aid and local authorities should therefore award relief to all eligible properties. The full list of eligible properties can be found here.

Businesses to benefit from larger loans under large business loans scheme

The Government has announced that the maximum loan amount that can be given to large businesses under the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) is being increased from £50m to £200m. The increase is to ensure that larger businesses have sufficient finance to meet cashflow during the Covid-19 outbreak.

This applies to those businesses who do not qualify for the Bank of England Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF). The expanded loans will be available from 26 May.

Companies borrowing more than £50 million through CLBILS will be subject to restrictions on dividend payments, senior pay and share buy-backs during the period of the loan, including a ban on dividend payments and cash bonuses, except where they were previously agreed.

For more information, click here.

Full details of all the Government’s economic support schemes can be found in the CLA’s briefing note.

Companies House delays removal of businesses from register

Companies House is temporarily suspending the process of striking off companies to prevent them being dissolved. This will give businesses affected by the Covid-19 outbreak the time needed to update their records and help them avoid being struck off the register.

Appeals decisions from companies issued with a late filing penalty will take into account the impact of Covid-19 on those businesses.

This latest measure adds to existing efforts to reduce the impact of Covid-19, such as, giving businesses the ability to apply for a 3-month extension to file accounts with Companies House.

Full details can be found here.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

Government improves rules around the Business Loan Scheme

Since the Covid-19 crisis began, we have been in frequent contract with HM Treasury and other government departments about all the measures announced by Government, including the grants and loans schemes. Feedback from members on how the schemes work in practice has been essential to substantiate our lobbying effort.

In particular, after receiving comments from members on how the banks were implementing the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme when it started operating on 23 March, we raised these concerns with the Treasury. We are pleased to see that the Chancellor has now announced changes to extend the scope of the scheme, preventing the banks charging unreasonable interest rates and limiting personal guarantees for only 20% of the value where loans are over £250,000. Our discussions with the Treasury will continue as we press the government to do all it can to provide the much-needed support members need.

The CBILS has also been extended to larger businesses, with a Government backed guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £25 million to those businesses with an annual turnover of between £45m and £500m.

For more information to see how your business can access the measures already introduced by the government go to the CLA advice note on business support (click here).

Please let us know if you're encountering problems with lenders through your Regional Office or by sending a message to covid19feedback@cla.org.uk

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The scheme also covers employees who were made redundant since 28 February 2020, if they are re-hired by their employer. To be eligible for the subsidy, when on furlough, an employee can not undertake work for or on behalf of the business. This includes providing services or generating revenue. While on furlough, the employee's wage will be subject to usual income tax and other deductions.

Further details on the job retention scheme can be found here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme and here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme.

Our member-only advice note explains the full range of business support measures and how they affect your business. To see whether you are eligible, and guidance on the process, please click here (LOGIN REQUIRED).

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – Furlough arrangements

The CLA has produced a series of advice notes to help members who are considering putting their staff on furlough. Under the Government’s Job Retention Scheme, an employer can put staff on furlough for a minimum period of 3 weeks (which can be extended). The employee would receive 80% of their salary up to a cap of £2,500.

The CLA and other organisations successfully lobbied for the scheme to be clarified to allow furloughed employees to take on temporary paid work for another employer (this may require the original employer’s agreements.

These advice notes cover:

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: Furloughed workers can now take on other work

Following extensive lobbying by the CLA, the Government has now revised the rules relating to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme that will allow those workers who have been placed on furlough to be able to take on other work outside their normal employment.

The revised rules state that if the employee's contract allows, that worker can take on other employment. This will not affect the grant that can be claimed under the scheme. The grant is capped at £2,500. However, the employee will need to be able to return to work for their original employer if the furlough is stopped.

Those furloughed workers who wish to take up additional paid employment need to complete the scheme's starter checklist form with their new employer and follow the rules set out under the job retention scheme.

A member-only guidance note will be posted on the CLA website: www.cla.org.uk

Full details can be found: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Expanded Retail Discount 2020/21

HM Treasury has published guidance for Local Authorities on the Expanded Retail Discount 2020/21: Coronavirus Response, which sets out in more detail what is meant by 'leisure, hospitality and retail' when referring to the business rate holiday and other schemes. The guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/business-rates-retail-discount-guidance

Financial Conduct Authority asks insurers to speed up payment claims

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has written to all insurers to ease the pressure on small businesses through making faster payments on claims on business interruption insurance. However, it has stressed that most business interruption policies held by small and medium-sized businesses only had basic cover which did not include pandemics and therefore insurers had no obligation to pay out in relation to Covid-19.

The FCA has also said that where claims are disputed policy holders should consider contacting the Financial Ombudsman Service to have the dispute examined further.

The CLA is continuing to raise the issue of inflexibility in the insurance sector and is pressing Government to introduce “premium holidays” for those businesses that are still being forced to pay premiums at a time when there is no income and costs are rising.

The letter from the FCA can be found: https://www.fca.org.uk/publication/correspondence/dear-ceo-insuring-sme-business-interruption-coronavirus.pdf and the Financial Ombudsman Service has more details: https://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/

Financial Conduct Authority sets out temporary financial relief for consumers affected by Covid-19

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has announced a package of temporary measures to help consumers affected by the coronavirus outbreak. They are intended to help people with some of the most commonly used consumer credit products.

The measures include firms being expected to:

  • offer a temporary payment freeze on loans and credit cards for up to three months, for consumers negatively impacted by coronavirus
  • allow customers who are negatively impacted by coronavirus and who already have an arranged overdraft on their main personal current account, up to £500 charged at zero interest for three months
  • make sure that all overdraft customers are no worse off on price when compared to the prices they were charged before the recent overdraft pricing changes came into force
  • ensure consumers using any of these temporary payment freeze measures will not have their credit file affected

The changes take force today and the full range of measures will apply by Tuesday 14 April 2020. This is to allow firms time to ensure they have the appropriate level of resources available to handle customer requests. All firms will be ready to receive customer requests by 14 April, although some firms including the major banks and building societies, will be adopting the changes today.

Further details can be found here and here.

Fraud and cybercrime

The Home Office has issued guidance on how businesses can protect themselves from fraud and cyber crime. The increased use of the internet has meant that more people are vulnerable to the potential of being targeted by criminals. The advice covers how to protect yourself and the business; and where to get help.

Further details can be found here.

Future Fund now open for applications

Companies that operate in the science, innovation and technology sectors will be able to apply for the Government’s Future Fund loans from 20 May.

The Future Fund will support these companies through the current Covid-19 outbreak so that they are able to continue to operate effectively.

The fund aims to deliver £250m of new government funding. The loans will need to be match funded by the business. For more information on the Future Fund eligibility criteria and applications process, click here.

Government announces new “Bounce Back” Loans scheme

The Chancellor has announced new “bounce back loans” for SMEs that will be available from 9am next Monday. Small businesses will be able to access loans worth up to 25% of turnover, up to a maximum £50,000. The government will pay the interest for the first 12 months. The loans will be 100% guaranteed by the Treasury, meaning the government will take on all the default risk. Businesses will be able to access these loans through a network of accredited lenders.

The government will work with lenders to ensure loans delivered through this scheme are advanced as quickly as possible and agree a low standardised level of interest for the remaining period of the loan.

Government has stated that there would be no tests of business viability ro complex eligibility criteria. There will be a simple online form to complete and if an application is accepted the loan should be released within days.

For more information, go to the government's website.

Government announces details for a new fisheries and aquaculture fund

The Government has now set out details of the fisheries and aquaculture fund that is part of the £10m fund launched on 17 April. The new fund is being administered by the Marine Management Organisation.

Grants of up to £10,000 are now available to directly contribute to ongoing production costs. To qualify, eligible businesses must:

  • Be an active shellfish or trout farm in 2018
  • Be located in England and produce shellfish or trout for direct human consumption
  • Have a Fish Health Inspectorate authorisation number for the business
  • Have a Fish Health Inspectorate authorisation number for the farm

For detailed guidance on the scheme, click here.

Government announces new Most Favoured Nation status tariff rates

The Government has announced the UK’s new Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff regime, called the UK Global Tariff. This will replace the EU’s Common External Tariff on 1 January 2021 at the end of the Transition Period.

The aim of the new tariff schedule is to make it easier and simpler to use for traders compared to the EU’s Common External Tariff with tariff rates in sterling, rather than Euros.

The new schedule streamlines 6,000 tariff lines and will remove unnecessary tariff variations, rounding tariffs down to standardised percentages, and removing tariffs below 2%, known as “nuisance tariffs”.

The new Global Tariff also removes the EU’s ‘Meursing table’ which calculates tariff variations and eliminates tariffs on a wide range of products. However, tariffs on a number of products are being maintained, including those in the agriculture, automotive and fishing sectors.

Government Bounce-Back loans scheme opens for business

The Bounce-Back loans scheme that was announced by the Government last week is open for applications from today.

The scheme allows businesses to apply for a six-year term loan at a government set interest rate of 2.5% a year, with the government covering interest payable in the first year. The main features of the scheme are:

  • Up to £50,000 loan: Loans will be from £2,000 up to 25% of a business’ turnover or £50,000, whichever is lower
  • The loan is 100% guaranteed by the government against the outstanding facility balance, on both capital and interest. The borrower always remains 100% liable for the debt
  • The government has set the interest rate at 2.5% per annum, meaning businesses will all benefit from the same rate of interest
  • The government will make a Business Interruption Payment to the lenders to cover the first 12 months of interest payable, so businesses will have upfront interest costs
  • Borrowers will not have to begin principal repayments for the first 12 months, after which the loan is repaid on a normal commercial basis
  • There is no guarantee fee for businesses or lenders to access the scheme
  • The length of the loan is for six years but early repayment is allowed, without early repayment fees
  • No personal guarantees are allowed, and no recovery action can be taken over a principal private residence or other private asset

More details can be found here.

Government provides more details on new Bounce Back Loan Scheme

There are now more details regarding the Government’s new Bounce Back Loan Scheme, including eligibility criteria. The new scheme aims to help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000.

The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. Loan terms will be up to 6 years. No repayments need to be made during the first 12 months and the government has said that it will agree with lenders a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan.

  • In order to be eligible, the business must:
  • be based in the UK;
  • have been negatively affected by Covid-19; and,
  • have not been an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019

For more information on the Government’s business support measures, download the CLA member briefing.

Government relaxes rules and regulations affecting businesses

A number of rules and regulations are being, or have been, relaxed in order to support businesses as a result of Covid-19. These include:

  • Protection from eviction
  • Delivery driver hours
  • Extension for filing accounts
  • Insurance
  • Off-payroll working rules (IR35) Delay
  • Insolvency
  • Taxable expenses

Further details can be found: https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/relaxed-rules-to-support-businesses/

Government to guarantee Trade Credit Insurance

The Government is to temporarily guarantee business to business transactions that are currently supported by Trade Credit Insurance (TCI). For businesses in the manufacturing and construction sectors TCI is crucial in providing cover for suppliers selling to companies that may default on payment.

There has been a risk that credit insurance could either be withdrawn or premiums significantly increased as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak as businesses struggle with increasing costs but with no income coming in.

The Government guarantee is intended to protect businesses in the market by supporting supply chains and allow businesses to carry on trading with the confidence that any failure to pay is protected through TCI.

A temporary agreement has been reached between the Government and TCI insurers operating in the market. The guarantees will cover trading by domestic firms and exporting firms with the aim for agreements to be in place with insurers by end of May.

The guarantee will be temporary and targeted to cover Covid-19 economic challenges. It will provisionally last until the end of the year and be followed by a review of the TCI market to ensure it can continue to support businesses in the future. Full details on how the TCI guarantee will operate will be put on the CLA website when available.

Government updates eligibility rules for furloughed staff

The Government has updated eligibility rules for furloughing of staff under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The new guidance clarifies situations where employers:

  • Made employees redundant or they stopped working on or after 28 February
  • Made employees redundant or they stopped working on or after 19 March 2020
  • Employ someone on a fixed term contract.

For further details, click here.

Historic England launches new £2m fund

Historic England has today launched a new £2m fund to help organisations, voluntary groups and self-employed contractors with the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Applicants are invited to apply for grants of up to £25,000 to address financial difficulties arising from Coronavirus. Grants of up to £50,000 are also available for projects and activities that reduce risks to heritage by providing information, resources and skills.

The deadline for applications is midnight on Sunday 3 May 2020 and the funding for successful applications will be awarded from mid-May.

For further details, go here.

HMRC update on Real Time PAYE notification for furloughed workers

HMRC has produced guidance for businesses on how and when to report payments made to employees under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme using the PAYE Real Time Information system. This includes if the business is:

  • using the grant to pay wages;
  • using the grant to reimburse wages already paid;
  • in a different position, for example, if the business has not paid anything to employees for March or April.

For more information, go to their website.

Insolvency laws changed to assist businesses

The UK Government has amended the insolvency laws by giving companies a delay from creditors enforcing debts while the company seeks to restructure. The changes should allow companies to keep trading during the delay. A new restructuring plan that binds creditors to that plan has also been introduced. Full details can be found: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/regulations-temporarily-suspended-to-fast-track-supplies-of-ppe-to-nhs-staff-and-protect-companies-hit-by-covid-19

Insurance advice from the CLA

To help CLA Members, CLA Insurance has compiled some Frequent Q & As related to insurance to help you understand the implications and the current support available to businesses. These cover:

  • Business Interruption/Loss of Revenue
  • Notifiable Disease/Infection Disease Extended cover
  • Workplace Health & Safety
  • Employment Absence & The Law
  • Public Liability
  • Travel Insurance

Full details can be found here.

We are also assessing the impact of the Government decisions to close down hospitality businesses, such as restaurants and pubs. We would greatly welcome member feedback by sending a message to covid19feedback@cla.org.uk

New £1.25bn fund for business start-ups announced

The Government is to formally launch in May 2020 a new fund for business start ups which have been affected by Covid-19. The “Future Fund”. It will provide government loans to UK-registered companies ranging from £125,000 to £5m, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors. The fund will be delivered in partnership with the British Business Bank and will run until at least the end of September.

In order to be eligible, the business must;

  • be based in the UK;
  • be able to attract the equivalent match funding from third party private investors and institutions; and,
  • has previously raised at least £250,000 in equity investment from third party investors in the last five years.

More details, including the full eligibility criteria, will be made available in the next month.

New business support “finder” launched

The Government has launched a new web-based tool to help businesses find the right available support during the Covid-19 outbreak. Through a step-by-step process, businesses are able to find whether they are eligible for the Government’s support measures and how to apply.

To see how the tool works, go to their site.

New Coronavirus Community Support Fund open for applications

The Government’s Coronavirus Support Fund will be open for applications on 22 May. The fund is administered by the National Lottery and will make available a total of £200m.

The money is aiming to:

  • increase community support to vulnerable people affected by the Covid-19 outbreak through civil society organisations;
  • reduce the temporary closure of charities and social enterprises to ensure they have the financial resources to operate, and reduce the burden on public services.

Full details can be found at: www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk.

New Corporate Governance and Insolvency Bill to be debated in Parliament

The government has introduced the Corporate Governance and Insolvency Bill in Parliament, that will put in place a series of measures to amend insolvency and company law to support business during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The measures will provide greater flexibility for businesses that have reduced resources. The Bill:

  • Introduces a new moratorium to give companies breathing space from their creditors while they seek a rescue;
  • Prevents suppliers from ceasing their supply or asking for additional payments while a company is going through a rescue process;
  • Introduces a new restructuring plan binding creditors to it;
  • Removes temporarily the threat of personal liability for wrongful trading from directors who try to keep their companies afloat through the Covid-19 outbreak;
  • Temporarily prohibits creditors from filing statutory demands and winding up petitions for Covid-19 related debts;
  • Temporarily eases burdens on businesses by allowing them to hold closed Annual General Meetings, conduct business and communicate with members electronically, and by extending filing deadlines;
  • Allows all the temporary measures to be retrospective.

New fund to top up small business grants

The Government has announced that Local Authorities are to receive a further £617m as a top up to the small business grants scheme.

This new money is being aimed at small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs and the Government has stressed that local authorities should 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. Local authorities, however, can choose to make payments to other businesses based on local economic need with the allocation of funding at the discretion of local authorities.

To qualify businesses must be small, under 50 employees, and they must also be able to demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop of income due to Covid-19 measures.

There will be three levels of grant payments. The maximum will be £25,000. There will also be grants of £10,000 and local authorities will have discretion to make payments of any amount under £10,000. It will be for councils to adapt this approach to local circumstances.

Government is currently setting out guidance for Local Authorities and more details will be provided when available.

New grants to be available for fisheries and aquaculture – England only

Defra has announced that £10m in grants is to be made available to fisheries and aquaculture businesses. Some £9m will be used in direct cash grants with the remaining £1m to be used to support fishermen to sell their catch to local communities through finding new routes to market.

The 3-month support scheme aims to meet the immediate needs of the industry by helping English fishing and aquaculture businesses with their fixed costs such as such as insurance, equipment hire and port costs. For the catching sector, the fund will be open to under-24m vessel owners with fishing licences registered in England who recorded sales of £10,000 or more in 2019. Grants will be made to help cover fixed business costs.

Details of the eligibility criteria, including the criteria for the aquaculture sector and support for local projects, will be announced by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO). They will administer the fund and contacting eligible registered owners and licence holders directly in stages with details of how to apply, starting on Monday April 20 through to early May.

Operating businesses during Covid-19

Businesses will be affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. However, there are a number of things they can consider in making the operation of the business easier.

If you are an employer, we advise that you keep an eye on the government advice and refer employees to it where they may be concerned about their individual risk. The advice is reviewed by the government on a daily basis.

Employers have a duty under health and safety legislation to take steps to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all their employees, so far as reasonably practicable, including those who are particularly at risk for any reason. Employees also have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of people they work with. They must cooperate with their employer to enable it to comply with its duties under health and safety legislation. Employees who refuse to cooperate, or who recklessly risk their own health or that of others in the workplace, could be disciplined where this is appropriate.

Where, for example, employees attend work but the employer reasonably believes the employee has symptoms that would require them to self-isolate in accordance with current government advice (i.e. where they have a new persistent cough and/or high temperature), the employer has a duty of care towards other staff to require the employee displaying those symptoms to stay at home and self-isolate for a period of 7 days.

Individuals in self-isolation must follow the published advice from Public Health bodies on how to self-isolate effectively. This includes not having visitors to their home and requesting that friends, family or delivery drivers drop off deliveries at the doorstep.

Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday if they need to. For example, they can decide to shut for a week and everyone has to use their holiday entitlement. If the employer does decide to do this, they must tell staff at least twice as many days before as the amount of days they need people to take. If the business was to close for 5 days, employees need to be told 10 days before.

This could affect holiday staff have already booked or planned. Employers should explain clearly why they need to close and try and resolve anyone's worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans

Self-employed support scheme opens

The Government is now contacting people who may be eligible under the Self-Employment Income Support scheme. Those eligible will be able to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their average trading profits up to a maximum of £7,500 (equivalent to three months’ profits), paid in a single instalment.

In order to receive quick confirmation from the eligibility checker, individuals should:

have their Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) and their National Insurance Number to hand

make sure their details are up-to-date in their Government Gateway account.

Once the online check is complete, eligible customers will be given a date when they can submit their claim. They will also be encouraged to update their contact details.

The claims service opens on 13 May and those eligible will have the money paid into their bank account by 25 May, or within six working days of completing a claim. 

For full details, click here.

The CLA has also produced a briefing note on the Government’s business support measures that can be downloaded here.

Self-employment support package open for claims 

The Self-Employment Income support scheme is now open for claims. New guidance has been produced on how to file a claim.

Claims are to be made on a specified date between 13-18 May, based on your Unique Tax Reference number.  If you are eligible to claim under the scheme, HMRC will have informed you of the specific date to apply on. This can be checked at any time on HMRC’s online checker. You cannot apply before your allocated date but you can apply at any time after it. 

You must make the claim yourself. Your tax agent or adviser must not claim on your behalf as this will trigger a fraud alert, and you will have to contact HMRC. This will cause a significant delay to you receiving your payment.

You will need to have the following information available to make your claim: 

Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) - if you do not have this find out how to get your lost UTR 

National Insurance number - if you do not have this find out how to get your lost National Insurance number 

Government Gateway user ID and password - if you do not have a user ID, you can create one when you make your claim

UK bank details (only provide bank account details where a Bacs payment can be accepted) including:

o bank account number

o sort code

o name on the account

o your address linked to your bank account

PLEASE NOTE: You can only access this scheme only through gov.uk.  If someone texts, calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, it is a scam.

Once HMRC has received your claim and your grant is approved, they will contact you to tell you how much you’ll get and the payment details.

The income support scheme will cover the three months to May. 

Grants will be paid directly into your bank account, in a single lump sum instalment covering all three months. The government has announced that the grants paid under this scheme will be paid by 25 May, or within six days of a completed claim.

For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-self-employment-income-support-scheme

Sick pay - support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

The Government is going to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to Covid-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • This refund will cover up to 2 weeks' SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of Covid-19
  • Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible
  • Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of Covid-19
  • Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
  • Eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force

Updated guidance on grants for self-employed people

HMRC has updated its guidance on how to claim a grant through the Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. The scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. It will be available for 3 months, but could be extended.

The grant is subject to Income Tax and National Insurance contributions but does not need to be repaid.

The CLA briefing note on business support has been updated accordingly (put in link to business support measures)

Zoos and aquariums to benefit from new £14m fund

The government has launched a £14m support fund for zoos and aquariums affected during the Covid-19 outbreak. Zoos and Aquariums have closed due to the Government lockdown which has affected the viability of many businesses.

The fund will support zoos in covering costs relating to animal keeping such as feed, heating and security. Defra will continue to work with some of the largest zoos to discuss additional concerns about funding in the longer term.

Establishments covered by the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (including petting zoos) will be able to bid for a portion of the £14 million that has been made available. Individual grant awards will be capped at £100,000.

For more details, click here.

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Government guidance on calculating Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

The UK Government has issued further guidance on calculating Statutory Sick Pay if the payroll software does not calculate the employee's payments.

It includes:

  • An explanation of terminology used
  • Coronavirus cases
  • The Link Period of Incapacity for Work
  • Calculating Average Weekly Earnings (AWE)
  • Calculating SSP including rates
  • Help and advice

The revised guide can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/statutory-sick-pay-manually-calculate-your-employees-payments

Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE)

Countryside Productivity Small Grants (CPSG) - England Only

The RPA have extended the deadline for applications for CPSG to midnight on 31 July 2020 in view of the ongoing crisis.

If you still intend to claim, please buy your items and submit your claim email to CPSGclaims@rpa.gov.uk by 31 July 2020 but earlier if at all possible. You can use the claim template and supporting documents detailed in your Grant Funding Agreement. Submit your Invoices, Bank Statements and Photos as per Annex 5 of the handbook. The RPA will monitor this situation closely and will contact you again if things change.

In the meantime if you have any concerns that you will be unable to meet the new deadline date of 31 July then please email the RPA at CPSGClaims@rpa.gov.uk or call on 03000 200 301.

Latest guidance for the Rural Development Programme in England (RDPE)

Defra has now published a list of frequently asked questions regarding applications for the growth programme. This is part of the EU Structural Funds that are due to come to an end on 31 December 2020.
Issues that have been raised include:

  • Rules on existing projects and inspections by the RP
  • The position on new applications
  • The impact on Leader and Countryside Productivity

Full details can be found

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Rural tourism

Destination Management Organisations to receive £1.3m in new Government fund (England only)

The Tourism Minister has announced that Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) are to receive £1.3m in further support until 30 June to maintain support for local tourism businesses.

DMOs provide expert advice and guidance to local businesses and are an important part of developing and promoting English tourism. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, a number of DMOs are currently facing cash flow issues and loss of commercial income. The new funding will ensure that DMOs can continue to provide business support and start to prepare for recovery.

Under the scheme, DMOs will be able to receive up to £2,500 per month for two members of non-furloughed staff who provide crucial business support services and up to £5,000 to cover operating costs.

Gardens can be opened to public (England only)

Following growing pressure from the CLA and Historic Houses (HH), the Government has now provided further guidance on easing the Covid-19 lockdown that means that gardens can open to the public.

When the Prime Minister set out the Government’s roadmap on 10 May, the plan stated that “outdoor ticketed attractions”, which included private gardens, could not be opened to the general public as part of step 1 of the roadmap. This is despite clear scientific evidence that the rate of infection is significantly lower outside than indoors.

Both organisations raised this anomaly with DCMS and Defra, pointing out that the Government was allowing garden centres to open but not gardens. The CLA and HH wrote to the Rural Affairs Minister, Lord Gardiner and the Tourism Minister, Nigel Huddleston, asking the Government to urgently clarify the situation.

The revised guidance states members of the public can “visit gardens and land maintained for public use as an alternative open space to spend time outdoors, although buildings and amenities such as cafes will remain closed and access may be limited to members or those with tickets to ensure social distancing. You should check ahead and follow social distancing guidelines.” Entrance fees can be charged.

Those gardens that wish to open may do so but must follow the government rules on hygiene and social distancing. They are also advised to carry out a risk assessment before the garden is reopened.

Historic Houses has set out guidance for gardens which can be found here.

Some considerations for shoots during Covid-19

The shooting season may be some way off, with grouse shooting famously starting on the 12 August, but shoots are already having to make plans and decisions based on their own circumstances. CLA North Regional Surveyor, Robert Frewen raises some of the issues they face in a member briefing which can be found here.

Tourism and Covid-19

The CLA receives daily updates from the UK Government and VisitBritain as to the extent of Covid-19 on the tourism sector. We will be providing these updates daily so all CLA rural tourism businesses are kept fully informed.

19 March tourism update

The Minister for Tourism is keen to understand the impacts on the sector following the Chancellor's announcement earlier this week, as well as to understand what the UK Government could do to provide further support.

Work is ongoing on:

  • A clear and inclusive definition of the business types that make up the tourism industry so that government reliefs/schemes are available to all constituents of the sector
  • Increased measures to alleviate as much of the cost burden to businesses as possible, including support for wage costs
  • An ask for greater clarity on the details of the support for businesses and when it will be available in future announcements.

The CLA is continuing to liaise with the Tourism Alliance to make sure that members' concerns are taken into account with Government.

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Supply Chain

Competition law – proposed changes

The Government is proposing temporary changes to competition law to make it easier for grocery retailers and their suppliers as well as logistic services to work together. Businesses from other areas of food supply that would not normally supply to retailers but now wish to do so to support the coronavirus response may also seek to work together and with retailers to increase the supply of groceries to consumers.

The proposed changes will allow grocery retailers and their suppliers to:

  • coordinate quantities of certain groceries to be supplied;
  • coordinate the deployment of staff;
  • coordinate the range of groceries to be supplied;
  • share information about stock levels;
  • share information about the services of logistic service providers;
  • coordinate supply to particularly critical or vulnerable consumers;
  • coordinate store opening hours; and
  • coordinate supply to consumers in geographically vulnerable areas.

However, retailers and suppliers are not permitted to share information relating to costs or prices. The exclusions only apply to activities listed in the legislation and undertaken in relation to the coronavirus response so sharing of information or collusion on future business planning remains prohibited. Further information can be found here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/369/contents/made

Please contact your CLA regional office if any of the new practices in the supply chain create worse trading conditions for you, so we can feed back to Government on your behalf.

Covid-19 and the supply chain

There is the potential for disruptions to input supply chains - the delivery of fertilisers, pesticides, animal feed and veterinary products, and fuel. There may also be disruption to the movement of crops and livestock off the farm.

The main problem is drivers becoming ill. Agricultural deliveries often have specialist vehicles or require licences, so the drivers are not easy to replace. There could also be problems related to imports in some cases.

Our advice is:

  • Plan ahead - consider what you will need for the next few months in good time.
  • Talk to your suppliers - have a discussion with your suppliers to understand how they are operating and place your order well in advance.
  • Be flexible - you might need to be prepared for early or later deliveries. The companies will be doing their best to accommodate your wishes but some flexibility will be appreciated.
  • We are lobbying for extended drivers' hours and for agricultural workers to be included as key workers and to ensure that the agri-food supply chain runs as smoothly as possible.

Please alert the CLA to any issues that you are having so that we can escalate and provide evidence to government through your Regional Office in the first place.

Crucial freight routes links to be protected

The Government is supporting sea freight transport companies by committing £35m to ensure there is enough freight capacity to prevent disruption to the flows of goods within the UK including food and medical supplies.

A total of 16 routes are to be protected. These include routes covering the Channel, the Short Strait, the North Sea and routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. These had been at risk of closure due to a drop in demand as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. The government’s investment will last for 9 weeks.

Drivers' hours to be relaxed

The Government has now extended the relaxation of drivers’ hours to 31 May 2020 in response to the extension of the national lockdown.

The new measures follow urgent representations to Defra made by the CLA on behalf of concerned members on this issue.

The new measures cover both EU drivers' rules and GB drivers' rules.

EU drivers' rules

EU drivers' hours rules can be temporarily relaxed as follows:

  • Replacing the EU daily driving limit of 9 hours with a limit of 11 hours
  • Reducing the daily rest requirements from 11 to 9 hours
  • Lifting the weekly (56 hours) and fortnightly driving limits (90 hours) to 60 and 96 hours
  • Postponing the requirement to start a weekly rest period after six 24-hour periods, to a weekly rest period after seven 24-hour periods. However, two regular weekly rest periods or a regular and a reduced weekly rest period will still be required within a fortnight.
  • Replacing daily breaks of 45 minutes after 4.5 hours with a break of 45 minutes after 5.5 hours of driving
  • Drivers must not use relaxation (a) and (d) at the same time. This is to ensure drivers are able to get enough rest.

GB drivers' rules

The GB drivers' hours rules can be temporarily relaxed as follows:

  • Replacing the GB duty time limit of 11 hours with 12 hours
  • Replacing the GB daily driving time limit of 10 hours with 11 hours

However, the temporary relaxation can only be used for 5 days in any 7-day period, and drivers must take a rest period of 24 hours within the same 7-day period

Employers and driver representatives should agree on how to use the new rules.

Government announces new £3 million for food distribution organisations

The Government is putting in place a new £3.25m programme to help food redistribution organisations to deliver surplus stock and help them cut food waste during the outbreak.

All food redistribution businesses and charities are being encouraged to bid for grants over the coming month, including those whose volunteer programmes have been affected by social distancing measures or those that cannot access their usual commercial support network.

Further details can be found here.

Government announces support package for key transport routes

The Government has set out new measures for certain key transport routes to ensure the free flow of goods. The new measures include:

  • pledges to protect flow of goods between the UK, mainland Europe and Northern Ireland;
  • the UK, Ireland and France have agreed on a joint commitment to protecting freight during the pandemic;
  • light rail systems in Sheffield, Manchester, West Midlands, Nottingham and Tyne and Wear will also set to receive support; and,
  • thousands of volunteers from the transport sector have been put on standby to support frontline services as a new ‘Transport Support Unit’ has been established.

Full details can be found here.

In addition, an emergency fund of £10.5m has been created to support the continuation of passenger ferries to the Isle of Wight as well as maintaining sea and air links to the Isles of Scilly for a 3 month period.

More details can be found here.

HSE updates advice to the food industry

The Health and Safety Executive has updated its advice to those working in the food sector. The update provides guidance for those working in bakeries and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). It also sets out information on how to report an incident or injury in the workplace.

See the full guidance here.

Latest guidance on UK points-based immigration system

The Government has announced further details on the new points-based immigration scheme for businesses that comes into effect on 1 January 2021. Under the new system, businesses will need to register as sponsors if they wish to recruit workers from overseas.

Further details can be found here.

New temporary rules for bus and lorry drivers

The Department for Transport has announced temporary rules to allow bus and lorry drivers to continue to work. Under the scheme, drivers will be able to receive a temporary 1-year licence, providing they do not have any medical conditions that affect their driving and their current licence expires in 2020.

The new rules allow for the temporary removal of the routine D4 medical which will make it easier for bus and lorry drivers to renew their driving licence and, as long as they are fit to drive, applicants will be able to apply for a 1-year licence without the need to provide further medical evidence.

For further details can be found here.

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Taxation

Business rate revaluation postponed

The Government is to postpone the revaluation of business rates that was intended for 2021 to 2022. This is a direct result of the difficulties for businesses affected by Covid-19 and is aiming at providing greater certainty.

Grant Funds Subject to Tax

The Government has updated the guidance on the small grant scheme to clarify that all grants made under the scheme are subject to tax should the business make a profit during the current financial year. For the latest information, go to their website.

For details on all the Government’s support measures, download the CLA’s member briefing here.

Heritage - grants and tax

Heritage Lottery Fund to support heritage

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has created a £50m fund to support heritage sites during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The £50m Heritage Emergency Fund will be available for grants of between £3,000 and £50,000. Organisations that can benefit from the grants include historic sites, industrial and maritime heritage, museums, libraries and archives, parks and gardens, landscapes and nature.

Priority will be given where:

  • there is limited or no access to other sources of support
  • where heritage is most at risk
  • where an organisation is at risk of severe financial crisis due to Covid-19

More details can be found here.

HMRC updated advice for properties that are conditionally exempt from inheritance tax and capital gains tax and as part of their conditions have to give access to the public

HMRC has said that they will not consider an agreement has been broken if the owner of a national heritage property closes it, or delays its opening to later in 2020. This will apply even if it means the property will miss some of the period covered by the agreement, or the property does not open at all in 2020.

If the situation improves, HMRC will expect the property to be open later in the year to make up for any lost days, if that is possible. But HMRC does not expect additional open days next year to make up for those missed in 2020.

It is important to follow Public Health England's social distancing guidance if you are the owner of a national heritage property.

Objects on loan to other organisations that close due to government advice

If a conditionally exempted object is on loan to a museum, gallery or other venue which closes HMRC will not treat the withdrawal of public access to the object as if the property has broken an agreement.

This will apply even if it means the object is not on show at all in 2020.

Objects that can only be seen by appointment

If an object can only be seen by appointment then they do not expect the property to agree to an appointment until the government's advice changes, and again, the agreement will not have been broken.

HM Revenue & Customs Time To Pay

If your business suffers from financial difficulties with outstanding tax liabilities, you may be eligible to receive support through HMRC's Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. HMRC are operating a new dedicated Covid-19 helpline for advice and support, so if you are concerned about being able to pay any tax due to Covid-19, then call HMRC's dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

Further information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/difficulties-paying-hmrc

HMRC Helpline for time to pay

HMRC has updated details for businesses and the self-employed people who are in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, who may be eligible to receive support through HMRC’s “Time To Pay” service.

In order to be eligible, the business must be paying tax to the UK government and have outstanding tax liabilities.

HMRC advisers are available to talk to businesses through webchat in the following areas:

  • Self Assessment
  • VAT
  • Employers’ PAYE
  • Corporation Tax

If a business needs to phone HMRC they should use the helpline number, 0800 024 1222. The helpline is open Monday to Friday: 8am to 4pm.

Zero VAT on purchases of PPE

The Government is to remove VAT from sales of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from 1 May for a 3-month period. This will apply to PPE bought by care homes, businesses, charities and individuals.

EU rules allow for member states to introduce temporary VAT reductions to mitigate the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the UK still applies EU rules within the transition period it can benefit from these relaxations.

The zero rating of PPE will allow businesses to reduce costs now and at the time that the lockdown is removed to allow business to reopen

VAT – Temporary deferral of VAT payments

The UK Government has updated its guidance on VAT payments. If a VAT registered business has a VAT payment due between 20 March and 30 June, it can defer the payment to a later date or pay as normal. VAT returns will still need to be submitted on time. If payment of VAT is deferred, it will need to be paid by 31 March 2021. There is also an easy to follow flowchart which can be found here.

For further details go to their website.

If you choose to defer your VAT payment, you should contact your bank to cancel your direct debit. For more information, click here to download the members-only briefing on the UK Government's business support measures.

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Utilities

Water regulator tells retailers not to disconnect

Ofwat has told wholesale water companies, such as Thames and Anglian Water, not to disconnect businesses even if their water retailer (new intermediaries in water market) requests it. Non-payment of bills will be accepted for a limited period.

Ofwat is now looking at urgent changes to the Customer Protection Code of Practice to require retailers to treat non-payment during the outbreak as force majeure events, which means that water supplies will not be disconnected.

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Wales

New £1.4bn package

The Welsh Government Finance Minister and the Minister for Economy have announced a new £1.4bn business support package to help businesses across Wales.

The new package provides retail, leisure and hospitality businesses in Wales with a year- long business rates holiday. A grant of £25,000 will also be offered for businesses in the same sector with a rateable value of between £12,001 and £51,000.

It also provides a £10,000 grant to all businesses eligible for Small Business Rates Relief with a rateable value of £12,000 or less. This support matches the measures in England providing a boost for small businesses struggling to cope with the impact of the Coronavirus crisis.

Tourism businesses and stakeholders in Wales wanting specific guidance are being asked to visit the Business Wales website (https://businesswales.gov.wales/coronavirus-advice) or call Business Wales helpline on 03000 6 03000, and to regularly visit the Public Health Wales website for up-to-date public health information for you, your staff and your visitors.

Access to private land in the countryside

On 25 March the CLA published a guidance note for members on how to manage public access safely, but in terms of COVID-19 and in terms of increased farm activity. To access this note, please click here (requires login)

Covid 19 and Coastal Access

Natural England has confirmed it has temporarily suspended publication of any further proposals and the end date for responses to proposals currently out for consultation in relation to the England Coast Path.

Stretches of the path currently out for consultation include:

  • Eastbourne to Camber
  • Tilbury to Southend
  • Isle of Wight

Further details are available on the England Coast Path homepage online and can be accessed via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/england-coast-path-improving-public-access-to-the-coast

In due course Natural England will start publishing coastal access reports again and add revised end dates for the above consultations once Government restrictions lift.

If you would like further, more detailed advice, please get in touch with your Regional Office in the first instance or email Sophie.dwerryhouse@cla.org.uk or telephone on 07771 977204.

Wales economic resilience fund suspended

The Welsh Government has decided to suspend the Economic Resilience Fund from today in order to be able to take stock of the very large number of applications that have been made. Since it opened to applications a week ago, the second phase of the fund has received almost 9,000 requests for support.

Due to the scale of demand, the Welsh Government increased the amount of funding for this phase to £300m. Around 700 applications are being appraised daily, with the first batch now approved for payment.

Businesses and organisations which have successfully applied to the Welsh Government’s £500m Economic Resilience Fund will start receiving grant payments by the end of the week.

Further information will be available on www.cla.org.uk when the fund reopens for applications.

Welsh Resilience Fund

The Welsh Assembly has created a Resilience fund aimed at helping those businesses that are not eligible for the Business Rate Grant or for support under the self-employed grant.

The Fund is made up of:

  • £100m COVID-19 Wales Business Loan Scheme administered by Development Bank of Wales (which is already fully subscribed)
  • £100m fund to support microbusinesses
  • £300m fund to support SMEs and large businesses

The £100m Fund for microbusinesses, which will provide £10,000 per business, is open to applications from 17 April 2020. This will help businesses that are not eligible to the Grant Fund, but these businesses have to be VAT registered to apply.

More information can be found here.

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