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 commencing 22 February 2021

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

Planning

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 2020 exchange rate announced

The government has set the BPS 2020 exchange rate at €1 = £0.89092. This is the same rate as 2019 and means that farmers should not see any material difference in their BPS payments for 2020.

Further information can be found at: www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-farmers-landowners-and-rural-businesses

BPS penalties revised

The Rural Payment Agency has announced that the process for penalising small over-claims of land under the Basic Payment Scheme has been revised for 2020, with more proportionate and simpler penalties. The penalty applied to over-claims of more than 2 hectares or 3% of the claimed area, but not more than 10% will be 0.75 times the size of the over-claimed area. For over-claims of more than 10% of the claimed area, the penalty will be 1.5 times the size of the over-claim. There will be no penalty for an over-claim of more than 2 hectares or 3% of the claimed area. 

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.

Dairy Fund open for applications

The Government has announced details on how dairy farmers can apply for the Dairy Response Fund.

The Fund has been set up to support those dairy farmers who have experienced significant price falls in the milk price as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Those eligible need to read the accompanying handbook and use the online application form.

For full details, click here.

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

#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.

Government updates guidance for seasonal workers on-farm

The Government has issued revised guidance for farm businesses that employ seasonal workers. This stresses the importance of working practices complying with Covid-19 guidelines in order to restrict the potential of outbreaks of the virus.

For more information go to: www.gov.uk/guidance/coming-to-the-uk-for-seasonal-agricultural-work-on-english-farms

The AHDB has also published a best practice guide for farm businesses and seasonal workers in the horticulture sector. More information can be found here: ahdb.org.uk/coronavirus/social-distancing-farm-businesses

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

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.

On site farm inspections resume

The Rural Payments Agency has announced that on-site farm inspections have now resumed following the temporary cessation of inspections due to Covid-19. Inspectors will make contact with customers prior to inspection to explain the arrangements and make enquiries regarding any vulnerable persons likely to be present. Inspectors will follow the current government advice and will adhere to social distancing at all times.

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 mentoring scheme launched

The Government is supporting a new digital skills scheme called “Digital Boost” which aims to provide support for small businesses.

The Covid-19 outbreak has seen a greater reliance on online platforms for businesses in trading with consumers. However, many rural businesses do not have an online presence and are unable to trade. According to the organisation, Small Business, some 67% of small businesses do not have a digital offering. The Digital Boost platform is designed to give businesses the skills to understand digital technology and use the opportunities it affords.

The new scheme, which is a free online platform, provides three different levels of support and advice:

  • “Boost Calls” – one to one mentoring with digital experts;
  • “Boost Workshops” – interactive sessions on a range of digital issues; and,
  • “Boost Skills” – providing information on a range of digital applications.

The CLA sees the digital skills agenda as one of the most important issues for the post Covid-19 period by allowing businesses to trade more effectively. We are calling for a national digital skills audit by government and a rolling programme of effective communication to ensure that businesses are aware of the digital skills programmes that are available.

For more information on Digital Boost, click here.

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.

Government now allows selling of Christmas trees on-farm

The Government has made a significant change to the second lockdown regulations in England which will allow sales of Christmas trees to become an essential service. This is to be implemented immediately.

The change follows pressure from growers that sales of Christmas trees to the general public in outdoor venues, such as on-farm, were the same as sales from garden centres which are regarded as providing essential services.

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

Advice on the Tiered System that will replace the National Lockdown in England

The following is an interpretation of the guidance issued by government on 23 November. We will update this guidance should it be necessary to do so once the implementing legislation has been published and scrutinised by Parliament.

When does the lockdown end?

The latest guidance is that the new 3 Tier system will now come into effect from the beginning of 2 December. That means from the 2 December, subject to following strict COVID guidelines, organised outdoor physical activity, including shooting, will be permitted.

Government regulations previously stated that the current national lockdown in England would last up to and including 2 December with the new 3 Tier system coming into effect on 3 December.

Where will the different tiers apply?

Government has said the new tiers will be applied ‘locally’ or ‘regionally’. They will be announcing the tier area boundaries on Thursday (26 November) and say there will be a Tier Checker on the gov.uk website where you will be able to enter a postcode and find out which tier it is going to be in.

Outdoor shooting activity

In all tier areas, organised outdoor sport and physical activity (including shooting) can continue. Current guidance does not suggest that such activity will be subject to gathering limits (the ‘Rule of Six’).

The legal requirements for shooting in groups are expected to remain as they were before the second lockdown. This means that the organiser or a participant must hold a valid shotgun or firearms certificate, conduct a risk assessment, and ensure all reasonable measures to limit the transmission of the coronavirus but the legislation has yet to be published.

Those at work or providing voluntary services are exempt from gathering limits (e.g. gamekeepers, beaters and pickers-up).

Outdoor leisure and sports venues (including shooting venues) will be permitted to open.

Indoor shooting activity

Organised indoor sport (such as target shooting) will be able to take place in accordance with the ‘rule of six’ in Tier 1 areas. In Tier 2 areas, organised indoor sport can take place if separate households can be prevented from mixing. Organised indoor sport cannot take place in Tier 3 areas. There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s.

Shoot meals and accommodation

Shoots operating as a business and providing food and drink or accommodation must follow the relevant tier guidance for the hospitality sector. Guest accommodation in Tier 3 areas must close.

Shoots not operating as a business and providing food and drink must conform to the indoor and outdoor gathering limits for the relevant tier in force in their area. The exemption of outdoor physical activity from the gathering limits does not apply to associated social activity

Travel and overnight stays

When travelling into or staying in a higher tier area you should follow the rules for that area. When travelling into or staying in a lower-tier area, you should follow the rules for the tier of your home area.

Government advice is that you should avoid travel to Tier 3 areas other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. Similarly, government advice is that people should avoid travel out of a Tier 3 area other than where necessary.

Overnight stays for driven game shooting in Tier 3 areas are not permitted as guest accommodation must close and mixing of separate households indoors is not permitted.

Gun shops

Non-essential retail, including gun shops, will be permitted to open.

Further information

For further information and to check the Tier in your area visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus

CLA advice on the new Covid-19 restrictions

In a statement to the nation on 22 September, the prime minister set out a series of further Covid-19 restrictions as a means of containing the spread of the pandemic. 

The new measures include further clarity on the application and enforcement of the rule of six, regulations setting out penalties for hospitality business owners who fail to enforce and police the new measures and restrictions on the number of people who can attend weddings.

The CLA has examined the new regulations and has produced the following briefing note. Members are urged to read the note in order to understand how the new restrictions will affect their business and how they can operate within the law.

The briefing note can be found here.

CLA sets out advice for businesses needing a QR code

The CLA has produced a briefing that sets out the conditions of the QR code system as part of the NHS Test and Trace as well as details on how to register. Once registered, applicable businesses need to promote this and ensure that visitors and guests comply with the new regulations.

The CLA briefing note can be found here

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 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.

France closes borders to UK

The French Government has closed the border with the UK for 48 hours as from Sunday 20 December following the rise in Covid-19 cases in Britain. This means that no movement of goods from France to the UK is permitted. It also affects all passenger traffic between the UK and France.

The Eurotunnel has also been closed.

This means that the port of Dover, which has a capacity of 10,000 goods vehicles per day, is closed.

However, despite the impact the border closure will have on the supply chains for goods, there is no indication that this will lead to food shortages in the British retail sector. 

More information on whether the 48-hour closure will be extended will be circulated when available. 

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 announces changes to tiers in England

As part of its review into the Covid-19 tiers structure, the Government has made a number of changes. This is in direct response to growing infection rates in some areas of England.

Areas moving from Tier 2 to Tier 3

Bedfordshire

Buckinghamshire

Berkshire

Peterborough

the whole of Hertfordshire

Surrey – with the exception of Waverley

Hastings and Rother, on the Kent border of East Sussex

Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant in Hampshire

Areas moving from Tier 3 to Tier 2

Bristol

North Somerset

Areas moving from Tier 2 to Tier 1

Herefordshire

For more information, visit the government's website

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 to be extended

The Chancellor has announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is to be extended until the end of April 2021 with the government continuing to contribute 80% towards wages and businesses contributing 20% of wages plus NI and Pension contributions.

This is aimed at giving greater certainty to business, particularly as a result of the changes in the Tiers structure. 

The loan schemes, including the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, are also being extend to 31 March from 31 January. 

More details can be found here

Extension of the Furlough Scheme under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-Employed Grant Scheme

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Rishi Sunak, has announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (also known as the furlough scheme) will be extended until the end of March 2021. This extension applies to all 4 devolved nations.

In a statement to the House of Commons, the Government is to:

  • Extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until the end of March with the Government paying 80% of wages up to a maximum of £2,500. Employers will need to pay national insurance and pension contributions;
  • Not pay the Job Retention Bonus in February but instead pay a retention incentive at, what it considers to be, the right time;
  • Increase the self-employed grant, covering November to January, from 55% to 80% of trading profits;
  • Increase the upfront guarantee of funding for the devolved administrations from £14bn to £16bn, on top of the Spring Budget 2020 allocation.

The Government has already announced other business support measures:

  • Businesses who are ordered to close will be able to receive and these are going to be split into rateable value (RV) bands:
    • those businesses with an RV of £15,000 or under, are eligible for £1,334 per month or £667 every two weeks;
    • with an RV between £15,000 and £51,000, businesses are eligible for £2,000 per month or £1,000 every two weeks;
    • with an RV over £51,000, businesses can receive £3,000 per month or £1,500 every two weeks.
  • Local Authorities will receive an additional £1.1bn (distributed on the basis of £20 per head of population in an area) that can be used by the local authority to provide further one-off support for business.
  • The 4 loans schemes that were put in place during the first national lockdown - Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS), the Bounce Back loan scheme, and the Future Fund – will now be available until 31 January 2021;
    • Those businesses that secured Bounce Back loans but did not apply for the full funding of £50,000 will be able to top this up to the maximum amount available.

Payment and eligibility under the CJRS

The extended CJRS will operate as the previous Scheme did, with businesses being able to claim either shortly before, during or after running payroll. Claims can be made from 8am Wednesday 11 November. Claims made for November must be submitted to HMRC by no-later than 14 December 2020. Claims relating to each subsequent month should be submitted by day 14 of the following month, to ensure prompt claims following the end of the month which is the subject of the claim.

Regarding employee eligibility, neither the employer nor the employee needs to have previously claimed or have been claimed for under CJRS to make a claim under the extended CJRS (if other eligibility criteria are met). An employer can claim for employees who were employed and on their PAYE payroll on 30 October 2020. The employer must have made a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020, notifying a payment of earnings for that employee.

Employees that were employed and on the payroll on 23 September 2020 (the day before the Job Support Scheme announcement) who were made redundant or stopped working afterwards can be re-employed and claimed for. The employer must have made an RTI submission to HMRC from 20 March 2020 to 23 September 2020, notifying a payment of earnings for those employees.

HMRC is to publish details of employers who make claims from December onwards under the extended scheme. Full details of this will be within the detailed guidance that is likely to be published next week.

Full guidance on the extension and on other business support measures will be published on Tuesday 10 November.

Self-Employed Grant

The Self-Employed grant is being increased to 80% of trading profits covering November to January for all parts of the UK. It is calculated based on 80% of 3 months’ average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment and capped at £7,500.

HMRC will pay the increase in the grant from 30 November. Details of how to apply are expected to be published next week.

There will also be a fourth Self-Employed grant covering February to April. The details will be published before the end of 2020, which will include the level of the grant itself.

Financial support for local businesses in England

Businesses in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors in the Tier 2 and 3 areas that suffered from reduced demand due to local restrictions introduced between 1 August and 5 November will receive backdated grants at 70% of the value of closed grants up to a maximum of £2,100 per month for this period.

It is thought that the Government will make the allocations to Local Authorities by today (6 November) which should allow Local authorities the opportunity to start making distributions from week beginning 9 November.

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.

Extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention (Furlough) Scheme

The Government has now published the guidance for the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). The guidance updates the original rules with details of how to claim for periods after 1 November 2020.

It should be noted that the reference period for calculating claims is prior to 18th March 2020 for people who were employed before this date. This means that if employees have taken cuts in hours or pay since 19th March, this will not impact on their furlough pay.

What are the main points of the new guidance?

A business can claim for any employees who were employed on 30 October 2020, as long as you have made a PAYE RTI submission to HMRC between the 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020, notifying a payment of earnings for that employee.

Importantly, the business does not need to have previously claimed for an employee before the 30 October 2020 to claim for periods from 1 November 2020.

Employers can furlough employees for any amount of time and any work pattern. For periods from 1 November 2020, employers will only need to pay for the cost of employer NICs and pension costs.

There is no maximum number of employees a business can claim for from 1 November 2020 and employees continue to maintain all their employment rights and accrue holiday pay as previously.

Further details can be found at: www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Which employees can be furloughed?

There is separate guidance detailing how the employment status of workers impacts on a businesses’ ability to furlough them.

For employees on Fixed Term Contracts, if fixed term contract has not already expired, it can be extended or renewed for claim periods after 1 November 2020. If an employee’s fixed term contract expired after 23 September, they can be re-employed and claimed for as long as the other relevant eligibility criteria are met.

Apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees and they can continue to train whilst on furlough.

For claim periods after 1 November 2020, a new employer is eligible to claim in respect of employees of a previous business transferred if the TUPE or PAYE business succession rules apply to the change in ownership. The employees being claimed for should have been employed by their prior employer on or before 30 October 2020 and transferred from them to their new employer on or before 1 September 2020

If a business made employees redundant, or they stopped working for the business on or after 23 September 2020 an employer can re-employ them and put them on furlough.

For more details, go to: www.gov.uk/guidance/check-which-employees-you-can-put-on-furlough-to-use-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

The government is also reviewing whether employers should be eligible to claim for employees serving contractual or statutory notice periods and will change the approach for claim periods starting on or after 1 December 2020, with further guidance published in late November.

How much can be claimed?

An online calculator has been created to help employers work out how much they can claim: this can be found at: www.gov.uk/guidance/calculate-how-much-you-can-claim-using-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Employees on Fixed Pay

The reference period is set at the last pay period ending on or before 19 March 2020 for employees who either:

  • were on the payroll on 19 March 2020, that is, the business made a payment of earnings to their employees in the 2019/2020 tax year which was reported to HMRC on a Real Time Information (RTI) Full Payment Submission (FPS) on or before 19 March 2020;
  • the employer made a valid CJRS claim for in a claim period ending any time on or before 31 October 2020.

For all other employees, the reference period is the last pay period ending on or before 30 October 2020.

Employees’ on Variable Pay

For employees on variable pay who were on your payroll on 19 March 2020, the employer should calculate 80% of the higher of:

  • the wages earned in the corresponding calendar period in the 2019/20 tax year;
  • the average wages payable in the 2019/20 tax year;
  • For all other employees’ the employer should calculate 80% of the average wages payable between 6 April 2020 (or, if later, the date the employment started) and the day before they are furloughed on or after 1 November 2020.

How do employers make a claim?

Once the employer has calculated how much they can claim, there is a separate online portal for making an application. This can be found at: www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wages-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

The cut-off dates for claims are set out in the table below.

Claiming for furlough days in

Claim must be submitted by
November 2020 14 December 2020
December 2020 14 January 2021
January 2021 15 February 2021
February 2021 15 March 2021
March 2021 14 April 2021

It is important to stress that 30 November 2020 is the last day employers can submit or change claims for periods ending on or before 31 October 2020.

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 5 stage plan on Covid-19 local lockdowns – England only

The Government has now published a five stage plan which will be used by local authorities in containing local Covid-19 outbreaks. These apply to England only. The five stages are:

  1. Monitoring: The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) and Public Health England (PHE) share local coronavirus data with directors of public health in local authorities so they can monitor what is happening in their area.
  2. Engagement and communication: If monitoring suggests that there are problems at a local level, the JBC and PHE will engage the relevant local authority to generate a joint understanding of the problem and develop solutions.
  3. Testing: Mass testing will be undertaken at a local level, combined with contact tracing through NHS Test and Trace, to control the virus.
  4. Local restrictions: If the virus continues to spread, either a local authority or the government will restrict activities at particular locations and close individual premises.
  5. National intervention: If the previous measures have not worked the government will put in place further measures which could include shutting businesses venues that would otherwise be allowed to open, closing schools, and asking people to stay at home or restrict their movement. These measures will be tailored to the circumstances of each outbreak and will be reviewed at least every 2 weeks.

Public Health England (PHE) has also launched a campaign to provide advice to businesses on how to identify and respond to a local coronavirus outbreak. The campaign sets out how to:

  • Identify an outbreak of COVID-19 (one or more confirmed case depending on the business or organisation);
  • Report the outbreak to local health protection team; and,
  • Work with local health protection team to respond.

As part of the campaign, PHE has produced a series of different action cards for different business types. For more information about the campaign and how to download the action cards, 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 issues guidance on mandatory face coverings

Following on from the Prime Minister’s statement on Friday 31 July, the government has now issued guidance on the mandatory use of face coverings in a number of different environments.

At present, it is necessary to wear face coverings in shops, supermarkets, indoor shopping centres, indoor transport hubs and public transport.

From Saturday, 8 August, it will be mandatory to wear a face covering in:

  • funeral directors
  • premises providing professional, legal or financial services
  • cinemas
  • theatres
  • bingo halls
  • concert halls
  • museums, galleries, aquariums, indoor zoos or visitor farms, or other indoor tourist, heritage or cultural sites
  • nail, beauty, hair salons and barbers - other than where necessary to remove for treatments
  • massage parlours
  • public areas in hotels and hostels
  • places of worship
  • libraries and public reading rooms
  • community centres
  • social clubs
  • tattoo and piercing parlours
  • indoor entertainment venues (amusement arcades, funfairs, adventure activities such as laser quest, go-karting, escape rooms, heritage sites)
  • storage and distribution facilities
  • veterinary services
  • auction houses

Regarding public areas in hotels and hostels, this includes the reception areas for all forms of holiday accommodation.

Government introduces new Covid-19 restrictions

The prime minister has announced a series of new Covid-19 restrictions as a means of containing the lasted spike in positive coronavirus cases.

Last week, the government introduced the rule of six which made it illegal for groups of more than six to meet either indoors or outdoors in England, subject to a number of exemptions. 

The new restrictions set out that from Thursday 24 September:

The planned reopening of conferences, exhibitions and events, that was scheduled for 1st October, has been suspended;

Hospitality businesses, such as pubs, restaurants and bars will have to close at 10pm (except for takeaways);

“Table-only” service will be allowed at pubs, restaurants and bars;

Staff in retail and indoor hospitality will have to wear masks;

The Covid-19 secure guidelines which apply to all businesses that have re-opened will now become a legal obligation;

The number of people able to attend a wedding is to be being reduced from the present 30 to 15;

Exemptions to the “rule of six” will be reduced, although details on this have yet to be released.

In addition, hospitality businesses will have the legal responsibility to enforce and police the restrictions at the place of business. The £10,000 fines imposed on those who do not quarantine will now be applied to businesses and the penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six will double to £200.

It is therefore important that all hospitality businesses reassess their respective risk assessments as these will need to be updated to take into account the new measures.

A full CLA briefing note on how these new restrictions will affect rural businesses will be put on the CLA Covid-19 webpage tomorrow.

Government introduces temporary reforms to planning system

The Government has set out a range of temporary reforms to the Town  and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 to enable planning permissions and listed building consents that have lapsed or are in danger of lapsing to be extended for a temporary period of time.  

  • Extension of certain planning permissions and consents
  • Government guidance to support the Business and Planning Act 2020
  • Modification of construction working hours
  • Flexibility in the determination of planning appeals

The CLA has set out a summary of the changes in the following briefing note here.

Government issues roadmap out of third lockdown

The Prime Minister has set out for MPs and the public, the government’s plans to ease England out of the third lockdown.

Set out in four phases, the government is to introduce a longer timetable for a relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions than was the case with the first roadmap in May 2020. There will be a 5 week review period before each new phase can begin.

Phase 1: from 8 March

All schools will open with outdoor after-school sports and activities allowed. Recreation in a public space - such as a park - will be allowed between two people, meaning they would be allowed to sit down for a coffee, drink or picnic.

From 29 March outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed. It is understood this will include gatherings in private gardens. Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis, basketball courts, or outdoor swimming pools will reopen and organised adult and children's sport, such as grassroots football, will also be permitted.

Phase 2: Earliest 12 April

Non-essential retail units can reopen. Holiday lets will also be allowed to reopen for individuals or members of the same household. Zoos and theme parks will be permitted to reopen. We are seeking clarification regarding campsites.

Phase 3: Earliest 17 May

Other tourism businesses will be permitted to reopen, including hotels and B&Bs, subject to meeting Covid-19 secure guidelines. Hospitality businesses, including public houses and restaurants, will be able to reopen indoors without curfew or the need for a substantial meal. Groups will be able to meet up to a limit of 30 outdoors. 

Phase 4: Earliest 21 June

All social contact restrictions will be removed. Weddings of more than 30 will be permitted. 

The reopening dates for phases 2 to 4 are subject to a 4-week assessment period. The government will then have a further week before signalling the beginning of each phase, subject to the available data.

The Government has also announced that there will be 4 reviews in the following areas:

1. Looking at whether having a vaccine or a negative test result can reduce restrictions on social contact.

2. Piloting the impact of testing and reduced social distancing on events.

3. Looking at how to facilitate more inbound and outbound travel - to report back by 12 April

4. Review social distancing measures, such as the one-metre-plus rule, rules on face coverings and working from home – to report back by 21 June.

What is significantly different from the first roadmap is that the government will assess four conditions that will need to be met before another phase begins. The four conditions are:

1. The coronavirus vaccine programme continues to go to plan;

2. Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently reducing the number of people dying with the virus or needing hospital treatment;

3. Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions;

4. New variants of the virus do not fundamentally change the risk of lifting restrictions.

Government support measures

The roadmap also states that the government’s current support measures, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, will continue until the end of the pandemic. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will provide more details at the budget on 3 March.  

New data and vaccinations

Along with the four conditions, data regarding the rollout and impact of the vaccination programme will be vital in determining the speed of reopening. The Government met its target of vaccinating the first 4 priority groups by 15 February. New data also shows that the transmission rate from those who have been vaccinated is reduced. The government now plans to speed up vaccinations for those over 50 to have a first jab by 15 April and for all adults to be vaccinated by the end of July. 

The importance of the R number and other factors

The R number is the rate at which the virus is transmitted. Anything over 1 means that the virus is spreading – for example, 1 person can infect 2 other people, these can then infect 4 other people and so on. It means that the spread of the virus is accelerating. However, if the R rate is below 1, it means that the level of transmission is being reduced. At present, the R rate for England is between 0.6 and 0.9.

The importance of the R rate is that it provides a clearer indication as to the prevalence of the virus. There are also other factors, such as the rate of hospitalisations and the number of daily positive tests. This data shows the impact of the vaccination programme and the lockdown measures on the rate of transmission as well as the number of people admitted to hospital with Covid-19. The Government uses this data as a benchmark for assessing the effectiveness of the restrictions.

Mass testing and its impact

The tiering system will be removed. It is likely that local authorities will be required to implement surge testing in the event of a rise in infection rates in a given locality. This is particularly important regarding the potential for the virus to mutate, as seen with the Kent and South African variants.

The government introduced mass testing in December last year. It was particularly effective during the period when the French authorities closed the border for exports from Great Britain. In this instance, those travelling between Great Britain and France, such as hauliers, are required to take a lateral flow test which must show a negative result within a 72 hour period before commencing a journey. 

Mass testing has also been extended to businesses with over 50 employees. Data from these mass testing arrangements show that companies are better able to monitor their staff and have contingency plans in place in the event of an outbreak (this is defined as two linked positive cases). 

For businesses with less than 50 employees who are required to work away from home, the Government has introduced a system of community testing, again using the lateral flow test. It is expected that the scope of community testing will be extended in the coming weeks.

The issue of mass testing could be important for hospitality and events businesses when they are permitted to reopen.  

Social distancing and capacity

Rural tourism, hospitality and event businesses will need to fully comply with the existing social distancing guidelines of 2m, both indoors and outdoors until these are completely removed. This will have an impact on capacity issues. Although the scientific data clearly points to a reduced infection rate when outdoors, there are no indications that relaxations will be permitted for certain businesses that are, in the main, based outdoors, such as campsites. This means that such businesses are likely to need to maintain social distance protocols that include reduced capacity until there is a definitive statement from the government.

Government to support Trade Credit Insurance with £10bn backing

The Government has announced that it will provide £10bn in support for trade credit insurance for businesses affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.

The new Trade Credit Reinsurance scheme aims to provide guarantees to traders in business to business transactions and the government guarantees will seek to ensure that trade credit insurance is maintained.

Trade Credit Insurance underwrites an estimated £350 billion of economic activity of more than 630,000 businesses in the UK each year. It insures suppliers selling goods against the company they are selling to defaulting on payment, giving businesses the confidence to trade with one another.

The new scheme will support supply chains so that businesses are able to continue to trade knowing that if a customer defaults or delays on payment there will be protection.

The scheme is backdated to 1 April 2020 and will run until 31 December 2020. There will be the potential for extending the scheme if needed.

Government updates Green Spaces advice

The Government has updated its Green Spaces advice to now include the reopening of animal attractions, such as zoos, safari parks and farms where animals are exhibited to the public. However, petting farms are to remain closed.

These attractions were allowed to reopen from 15 June. As with other outdoor attractions, such as gardens, visitors must follow the 2m social distancing rule.

Indoor attractions and activities where people come into contact with other people, surfaces or animals (for example, children’s play areas and petting farms) must stay closed.

For further details go to:www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-on-accessing-green-spaces-safely

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

Key workers in local lockdowns

Those that were defined as key workers during the national Covid-19 lockdown will remain designated as key workers in the event of a local outbreak. These include those that work on farms, in the agrifood supply chain (including agricultural engineers) and in the emergency services.

However, in the event of a farm or food processing unit being identified as a source of infection, all those working on farm will be tested and will be required to self-isolate for a period set by the local public health authority, in the main between 7 to 14 days. Those workers who do not live on-farm but travel to work, will be required to be tested and then self-isolate, even in the event of a negative test. They will not be permitted to travel to work as the farm will be designated a protected area.

Latest Government guidance for outdoor sport, recreation and community centres

Updated guidance has been produced for operators of outdoor sports and recreation facilities that are allowed to reopen on 4th July including playgrounds and outdoor gyms. This will be of particular importance to operators of camping caravanning and self-catering complexes that have these types of facilities.

For more details, click here.

The CLA has produced a series of guidelines for rural tourism operators. To download a copy, click here.

New guidance has also been produced on the use of community centres, village halls, and other multi-use community facilities support a wide range of local activities. From 4th July, users of community facilities should limit their social interactions to 2 households in any location; or, if outdoors, potentially up to 6 people from different households. It will be against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place.

The guidance allows premises that are Covid-19 secure to hold more than 30 people, subject to capacity limits, although any individual groups should not interact with anyone outside of the group they are attending the venue with – this means in a group no larger than 2 households or 6 people if outdoors.

For further information, click here.

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 national Covid lockdown in England

The Prime Minister, Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, has announced that England will enter further Covid-19 restrictions from midnight on Wednesday 6 January. However, the government has made clear that the public should follow the new restrictions immediately. They will be reviewed on 15 February. These new measures will replace the current Tier system in place in England.

The Scottish Government has already announced a national lockdown with Wales being in lockdown since 20 December, 2020.

The new restrictions in England are very similar to those of the first lockdown in March last year. 

The following businesses are required to close:

non-essential retail, such as clothing and homeware stores, vehicle showrooms (other than for rental), betting shops, tailors, tobacco and vape shops, electronic goods and mobile phone shops, auction houses (except for auctions of livestock or agricultural equipment) and market stalls selling non-essential goods. These venues can continue to be able to operate click-and-collect (where goods are pre-ordered and collected off the premises) and delivery services;

hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs; with the exception of providing food and non-alcoholic drinks for takeaway (until 11pm), click-and-collect and drive-through. All food and drink (including alcohol) can continue to be provided by delivery;

accommodation such as hotels, hostels, guest houses and campsites, except for specific circumstances, such as where these act as someone’s main residence, where the person cannot return home, for providing accommodation or support to the homeless, or where it is essential to stay there for work purposes;

leisure and sports facilities such as leisure centres and gyms, swimming pools, sports courts, fitness and dance studios, riding arenas at riding centres, climbing walls, and golf courses.

entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, amusement arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, skating rinks, go-karting venues, indoor play and soft play centres and areas (including inflatable parks and trampolining centres), circuses, fairgrounds, funfairs, water parks and theme parks;

animal attractions (such as zoos, safari parks, aquariums, and wildlife reserves);

indoor attractions at venues such as botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks must also close, though outdoor grounds of these premises can stay open for outdoor exercise;

personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and nail salons. Tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services must also close. These services should not be provided in other people’s homes;

community centres and halls must close except for a limited number of exempt activities, as set out below. Libraries can also remain open to provide access to IT and digital services – for example for people who do not have it at home – and for click-and-collect services.

The following businesses and venues are allowed to remain open as long as they follow Covid-19 secure guidelines. Businesses include:

essential retail such as food shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, building merchants and suppliers of building products and off-licences;

market stalls selling essential retail may also stay open

businesses providing repair services may also stay open, where they primarily offer repair services;

petrol stations, automatic (but not manual) car washes, vehicle repair and MOT services, bicycle shops, and taxi and vehicle hire businesses;

banks, building societies, post offices, short-term loan providers and money transfer businesses;

funeral directors;

laundrettes and dry cleaners;

medical and dental services;

vets and retailers of products and food for the upkeep and welfare of animals;

animal rescue centres, boarding facilities and animal groomers (may continue to be used for animal welfare, rather than aesthetic purposes);

agricultural supplies shops;

mobility and disability support shops;

storage and distribution facilities;

car parks, public toilets and motorway service areas;

outdoor playgrounds;

outdoor parts of botanical gardens and heritage sites for exercise;

places of worship;

crematoriums and burial grounds.

Full details relating to the present lockdown in England can be found at: National lockdown: Stay at Home - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) 

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.

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

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.

Local Management of Covid-19 and local lockdowns

Local Directors of Public Health (DPH) are now to be accountable for controlling local Covid-19 outbreaks by working with Public Health England (PHE) and local health protection boards.

Local Authorities are expected to have in place a local outbreak plan developed in line with the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) guiding principles setting out how partners should work together to implement the plans and take a preventative approach.

More details can be found here.

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Landlords and tenants

Government extends ban on business evictions to 31 March 2021

The Government has announced that the present ban on evicting businesses from premises that was due to end on 31 December 2020 will now be extended be extended until 31 March 2021.

This final extension is intended to give landlords and their tenants a three-month window in coming to arrangements for rent arrears. It comes on top of the industry Code of Practice that was agreed in June to ease landlord/tenant relations during the pandemic.

It has also been announced that a review on the commercial law regulating landlords and tenants will take place in order to make sure it is fit for purpose in the future.

The restriction on landlords using Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) to recover unpaid rent will also automatically extend to the end of March. 

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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Planning

Permitted development rights - additional temporary uses of land - extension for 2021

In June 2020, the government published the Town and Country Planning (Permitted Development and Miscellaneous Amendments) (England)(Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020 no. 632). The regulations introduced a number of changes to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended) (GPDO) including the introduction of Class BA which provided a time limited extension to temporary uses of land for 2020.

The government has provided for a further, time limited, extension of these rights for 2021. The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI2020/1243) amends the time limit for Class BA with effect from 1 January 2021.

A summary of the regulations, which includes a number of exclusions, can be found in CLA guidance note GN19-20.

Permitted development rights - temporary use of certain buildings for takeaway food - time limited extension to 2022

In March 2020, following the closure of pubs, cafes and restaurants as a result of coronavirus, the government announced that they would permit these establishments temporarily, to provide takeaway food.

The regulations to allow this temporary change of use to take effect was published as The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2020 (SI 2020 No.330) and introduced Class DA which came into force for a time limited period - 24 March 2020 to 23 March 2021.

With effect from 6 April 2021, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI2020/1243) amend the end date for Class DA from 23 March 2021 to 23 March 2022.

Further information can be found in CLA guidance note GN20-20.  

Planning appeals - changes to procedures for handling appeals (England only)

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has updated its planning appeals guidance, for England, to include measures in the Business and Planning Act 2020 that the allow the body to take a mix-and-match approach to the procedures for handling appeals.

Formerly, PINS had decided at the beginning of the appeal whether it would take the form of written representations, a hearing or a planning inquiry.

The Busines and Planning Act 2020 contains a series of measures designed to support the economy during the CV19 pandemic. The Act allows planning appeals to consist of a hybrid of these three routes. The PINS’ lasted procedural guide for planning appeals in England now reflects this change.

The guidance now provides that if PINS decides initially “that an appeal should be dealt with thorough a hearing or an inquiry the appointed Inspector may subsequently also consider, based on submitted evidence and relevant issues, whether a combined procedure might be appropriate”. The document suggests for example that “a hearing could have written representations element to deal with a certain issue and an inquiry could have a hearing and/or written representations elements, if those approaches are considered more appropriate to deal with certain issues”.

The guidance states that how “the combined procedure should operate at the discretion of the inspector on a case-by-case basis”. If the ‘combined procedure’ is appropriate, the parties may be invited to comment, which for inquiries will be prior to or during the case management conference call, before a decision on any ‘combined procedure’ is finalized.

The guidance has also been updated to include the introduction for appeals to allow for amendments to construction hours and to enable certain planning permissions and listed building consents in England which have lapsed or are about to lapse during 2020 to be extended. These measures were also contained in the Business and Planning Act. The appeals procedures for these were set out earlier this year. 

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Rural Business Measures

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

Businesses can now get Bounce Back loan top ups

Following the Chancellor’s decision to extend the furlough scheme and relax some of the conditions relating to the Covid-19 loan schemes, as from today, participating lenders in the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) are able to offer smaller businesses across the UK a ‘top-up’ to their existing Bounce Back Loan if they originally borrowed less than the maximum amount available to them.

The top-up will be available from several large lenders from today, with other lenders expected to make the top-up available in the next few days.

The top-ups are only available from a borrower’s existing Bounce Back scheme lender. In addition, a borrower can apply for a top-up that is for the lesser of £50k or 25% of the annual turnover the borrower certified in their original successful BBLS application form, minus the value of their original loan.

How the top up works

Under the Bounce Back Loan Scheme top-up, if a borrower had certified an annual turnover of £100,000 in their original application and taken a Bounce Back Loan of £20,000 (20% of that certified annual turnover), they can ask to borrow an additional £5,000 (5% of that certified annual turnover), taking their Bounce Back Loan to the maximum 25% of their originally certified annual turnover.

Varying turnover amounts certified in original loan applications and relative size of original loans means the size of the top-up facility available to applicants will vary. The table below sets outs a number of examples.

Certified Annual Turnover for original loan

Total amount available under BBLS (25% of turnover)

Original Bounce Back Loan amount

Maximum Bounce Back Loan Top-up: (total eligible amount minus original loan amount)

Example 1 £200,000 £50,000 £50,000 £0
Example 2 £200,000 £50,000 £10,000 £40,000
Example 3 £150,000 £37,500 £30,000 £7,500
Example 4 £100,000 £25,000 £20,000 £5,000
Example 5 £50,000 £12,500 £10,000 £2,500
Example 6 £20,000 £5,000 £4,000 £1,000

There are a number of key features to the new top up:

  • One top-up per borrower from their existing lender;
  • The minimum top up amount is £1,000;
  • The capital repayment holiday runs for 12 months from the initial drawdown date on the original Bounce Back Loan. This means that if the initial drawdown date of the original Bounce Back Loan was on 1 June 2020, and the drawdown date of the top-up was on 1 November 2020, the capital repayment holiday period will run to 31 May 2021.

Applying for the top up

Those wishing to apply for the top up should contact their lender which will then give the applicant a short form application form. Borrowers must complete this application form to be eligible for a top-up.

The top-up application form will require borrowers to indicate the amount of the top-up requested and re-provide certain declarations set out in the original Bounce Back Loan application form.

For more details, click here.

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 Insurer

Chancellor creates new business grants as Prime Minister announces new Covid-19 lockdown in England

Following on from the Prime Minister’s announcement on 4 January that England would enter a further lockdown in order to reduce the rates of infection, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, has set out a series of further grants to assist businesses.

The new support measures are in addition to the ongoing Local Support (open and closed) Restriction Grants that are available.

The one-off top up grants are available to those businesses forced to close as follows:

£4,000 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or under;

£6,000 for businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000;

£9,000 for businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000.

It will be the responsibility of Local Authorities to distribute the top-up grants.

A further £594 million will be available as discretionary funding to support other impacted businesses.

Those eligible for Local Support Restriction Grants (open and closed) will still be able to receive up to £3,000 for closed businesses, and up to £2,100 per month for impacted businesses once they reopen. 

In Wales an additional £227 million is to be allocated with the Welsh Government determining how this will be distributed.

The Government is in the process of drafting guidance relating to these grants. This will be put onto the CLA website when available along with a members’ briefing note on available business support.

Covid-19 grants

The second wave of the Local Restrictions Support Grants (LRSG (Closed) Addendum) has now been announced for businesses closed by the pandemic.

The payments cover the period 16 February to 31 March and are as follows:

£2,096: if the business has a rateable value of up to £15,000 ;

£3,143: if the business has a rateable value over £15,000 and less than £51,000;

£4,714: if the business has a property with a rateable value of £51,000 or more.

More details of the available grants 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).

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 clarifies rules for insurers

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced on 1 May its intention to try and clarify the wording of business interruption insurance policies through a test case in the courts. It has now reviewed over 500 relevant policies from 40 insurers and identified a sample of 17 policy wordings that capture the majority of the key issues that could be in dispute. It is anticipated that the test case will be heard during the second half of July.

As part of this investigation, the FCA has also published draft guidance on what insurance companies have to do when handling claims and complaints for business interruption policies during the test case.

The draft guidance states that insurance companies should:

  • identify the potential implications of the test case on their decisions to reject claims;
  • keep policyholders informed about the test case and its implications for policies, claims and any settlement offers;
  • treat policy-holders fairly when the test case is resolved.

For more information, click here.

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.

Financial Conduct Authority issues guidance for business interruption insurance claims

Following the judgment from the Supreme Court on business interruption claims, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has now issued a Policy Checker which takes businesses through a process where they can check to see whether their insurance policy covers business interruption losses due to Covid-19. 

Policyholders will need to check:

the extent of their cover, including how long it covers them for (length of their indemnity period); and,

what losses are included, for example, loss of profit, fixed costs or increased costs of working.

However, each claim will still need to be individually considered to determine whether the policy provides cover for the effects of coronavirus. 

More information can be found here

In addition, the FCA have developed a FAQs note which gives business further information on:

How to make a claim;

The disease clauses in policies;

What to do if they have already made a claim or complaint; and,

What they can claim for.

Details of the FAQ note can be found 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.

Future Fund to be extended

The Government has announced that the Future Fund will now allow businesses that do not have their parent company based in the UK to apply to the scheme.

The aim of the changes is to allow a wider number of suitable companies to apply, while maintaining scheme protections against fraud and abuse and ensuring that the Future Fund continues to support economic activity in the UK.

The scheme is designed to support innovative UK companies with good potential, that tend to rely on equity investment and are currently affected by Covid-19. Until now these companies have been unable to access other government business support programmes because they are either pre-revenue or pre-profit.

The Future Fund was launched in May and will initially be open until the end of September. The scheme has so far approved over £320.6m of convertible loans to 322 innovative businesses across the UK.

For further details, click here.

Further government support

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) which started in March this year may be ending on 31 October, but the government is continuing to provide further financial assistance to employers. There is the Job Support Scheme from 1 November, the CJRS Job Retention Bonus next year and the Kickstart Scheme.

Download full details of these further support measures here.

Government adds further £20m to SME support fund

Government has set out details of a further £20m to support SMEs directly affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. This is additional to the £10m package announced previously and comes from the European Regional Development Fund in England, part of the EU structural funds.

The new funding is being allocated to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) for distribution to eligible businesses.

The funding is to directly respond to the impact of COVID-19 and can include:

  • one-to-many events providing guidance to respond to coronavirus
  • small grants (£1,000 - £5,000) to either:
    • help visitor economy businesses access specialist professional advice (e.g. human resources, accountants, legal, financial, IT / digital)
    • purchase minor equipment to adapt or adopt new technology in order to continue to deliver business activity or diversify

The funding is being provided to address immediate needs and all grants must be awarded by 28 February 2021 with all activity fully completed by 31 March 2021.

For further details on the scheme and the monies allocated to each LEP, 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 new VAT deferral scheme

The government has introduced a new VAT deferral scheme for those businesses that deferred VAT payments due between 20 March and 30 June 2020. Where payments still have to be made, businesses can decide to join the new online VAT deferral payment scheme which will open between 23 February and 21 June 2021. 

The new scheme will allow businesses to:

pay deferred VAT in equal instalments, interest free; and,

choose the number of instalments, from 2 to 11 

To be able to use the online service, businesses must:

join the scheme directly rather than through an agent;

still have deferred VAT to pay;

be up to date with VAT returns;

join by 21 June 2021;

pay the first instalment upon joining;

pay instalments by Direct Debit .

For more details, go to: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/deferral-of-vat-payments-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19. 

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 puts £20m into new programme for business leadership

The Government has launched two new leadership and business skills programmes to help drive productivity and improve business problem-solving.

The Small Business Leadership Programme aims to strengthen decision-makers’ leadership skills, so they are able to address management challenges, some of which, such as remote working, have arisen from Covid-19. The programme equips business leaders with the leadership skills to plan for the future of their business, and ensure they are in a better position to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 10-week programme, delivered online, will teach participants how to maximise their business’s potential by improving productivity, organisation and efficiency. Business will undertake a series of 90-minute webinars delivered by leading business experts, and will also be required to complete up to two hours of independent study and peer-supported learning per week.

The Peer Networks Programme has also been launched, focusing on helping business owners improve their problem-solving skills, through a series of guided exercises. Participants will take part in sessions where common Covid-19 related business challenges will be discussed, for example, finding new customers and using technology such as customer record management and websites to adapt a business model. Members of the programme will be given skills in areas such as leadership and management, sales and marketing that they need to tackle these challenges head-on while growing their business.

There are 2,000 places available on the Small Business Leadership Programme and 6,000 on the Peer Networks programme.

More details on the Small Business Leadership Programme can be found at: smallbusinesscharter.org/small-business-leadership-programme and for the Peer Networks Programme at: www.peernetworks.co.uk

Government consolidates Covid-19 guidance for the rural tourism and hospitality sectors

The Government has now consolidated all the relevant advice and policy that supports owners and operators of rural and coastal areas in the tourism and hospitality sectors. This one document will help businesses, councils and Destination Management Organisations operating in these areas.

It covers issues such as, car parks, public facilities, overcrowding and dealing with antisocial behaviour as well as providing links to a range of external organisations that have produced guidance related to public safety in these areas.

For details on the consolidated guidance, click here.

The CLA has also published its own guidelines for rural tourism operators in England and Wales, including a risk assessment template, which can be found here (England) and here (Wales).

Government extends loan repayment times

The Government has announced that the repayment period for the Bounce Bank loan scheme which is six years can now be extended for ten years. Businesses taking out the Bounce Bank loan do not have to repay any monies for the first 12 months. 

Lenders will contact those with Bounce Back loans and provide the following options:

extend the term of the loan to 10 years;

move to interest-only repayments for a period of 6 months (this option can be used up to 3 times);

pause repayments for a period of 6 months (this option is available once).

Clarification is being sought as to whether these new options will be available for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

The present deadline for both the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and the larger CBILS is 31 March 2021.

For more information, go to: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-coronavirus-bounce-back-loan

Government provides guidance for heritage grants scheme

The Government has set out guidance for heritage businesses seeking to apply for the grant support scheme worth £88m. The deadline for applications is 12.00pm on 17 August 2020 and awarded grants must be spent by 31 March 2021.

Grants from £10,000 to £1 million and £1 million to £3 million are available to businesses that were financially sustainable before Covid-19. However, after exhausting all other options for increasing their resilience, these businesses are now at risk of failure.

The £88m Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage offers grants to help heritage organisations or businesses to cover operating costs, assess and adapt their business models, and become financially viable. This could include:

  • Reopening costs – help to re-open and follow social distancing guidelines;
  • Operating costs – such as rent, insurance and security;
  • Hibernation costs – to support temporary changes to the way organisations, businesses and sites work;
  • Mothballing costs – this could mean closing a site to staff and the public, placing items into storage, or withdrawing from a touring exhibition;
  • Recovery costs – help to recover from the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and become financially sustainable in the future.

For more information and to submit a funding application go to: historicengland.org.uk/coronavirus/funding/recovery/

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 makes significant changes to Job Retention Scheme

The Government has announced a series of changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), including furloughing and the amount paid by employers under the scheme.

From 1 July 2020, businesses will be given the flexibility to bring previously furloughed employees back part time, a month earlier than previously announced to help support people back to work.

In June and July, the Government will continue to pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 as well as employer National Insurance (ER NICS) and pension contributions for the hours the employee does not work. Employers will have to pay employees for the hours they work.

From August 2020, the level of the grant will be slowly tapered to reflect that people will be returning to work:

  • In August, the Government will still pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. But employers’ will pay national insurance and pension contributions;
  • In September, the Government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,190 for the hours the employee does not work. Employers will pay national insurance and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. Employers retain the ability to top up a furloughed worker’s wages;
  • In October, the Government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee does not work. Employers will pay national insurance and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. Employers retain the ability to top up a furloughed worker’s wages.

The cap will be proportional to the hours not worked. To allow the introduction of flexible furloughing, and support those already furloughed back to work, claims from July onwards will be restricted to employers currently using the scheme and previously furloughed employees. The number of employees an employer can claim for in any claim period cannot exceed the maximum number they have claimed for under any previous claim under the current CJRS.

The scheme will close to new entrants on 30 June, with the last three-week furloughs before that point commencing on 10 June for new entrants. From 1 July, employers can bring back to work employees that have been furloughed for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim CJRS grant for the hours not worked. Employers will need to agree any flexible furlough arrangements with employees, and when claiming the CJRS payment will need to report and claim for a minimum period of a week.

The CJRS will come to an end on 31 October 2020.

Full details of the Government’s Covid-19 economic support measures can be found in the CLA member briefing.

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.

Guidance on lockdown grants is published

The Government has just published the guidance on the new Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment announced last week and updated the eligibility for the LRSG.

This means there are two grants for businesses with rateable values: The Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) – 5 January onwards; and the Closed Business Lockdown Payment which was announced by the Chancellor last week and is a one-off payment.

Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) - 5 January onwards

The payment period has now been extended to 42 days from 5 January 2021. If the Covid-19 restrictions are extended, the payment period will be reviewed.  Local Authorities have been asked to provide the funding to businesses as soon as the receive it. We understand that the Local Authorities will then allocate the grant to those businesses that are eligible. If a business has not been contacted by their respective Local Authority but they believe they are eligible, they should contact the Local Authority. 

Eligible businesses that are eligible are those that have been told by government to close by Government under the Covid-19 regulations. These include non-essential retail, leisure, personal care, sports facilities and hospitality businesses. Information as to what constitutes an eligible business can be found here.

This means that the previous Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) Addendum: Tier 4 (Open) and (Sector) and (Closed) will no longer apply. However, applications can still be made for eligible periods before national restrictions.

The following thresholds apply to LRSG (Closed) Addendum: 5 January onwards:

Businesses that occupy hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value of exactly £15,000 or under on 5 January 2021 receive a payment of £2,001 per 42-day qualifying restriction period;

Businesses that occupy hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value over £15,000 but less than £51,000 on 5 January 2021 receive a payment of £3,000 per 42-day qualifying restriction period; and, 

Businesses that occupy hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value of exactly £51,000 or above on 5 January 2021 receive £4,500 per 42-day qualifying restriction period.

Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment (one-off grant)

Eligibility for the Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment (CBLP) is the same as the LRSG (Closed) Addendum: 5 January onwards scheme, as set out above. 

The scheme will close for applications on 31 March 2021, but we believe Local Authorities will identify and pay all relevant businesses as soon as possible once the funding is received. However, if a business believes they are eligible but has not been contacted by the respective Local Authority, they should contact them.

The scheme will close on 30 April 2021, meaning that final payments will need to be made by this date.

The following funding thresholds apply to the Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment:

Businesses that occupy hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value of exactly £15,000 or under on 5 January 2021 receive a payment of £4,000;

Businesses that occupy hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value over £15,000 but less than £51,000 on 5 January 2021 receive a payment of £6,000; and, 

Businesses that occupy hereditaments appearing on the local rating list with a rateable value of exactly £51,000 or above on 5 January 2021 receive a payment of £9,000.

It is stressed the CBLG is a one-off payment. 

It has been made clear that local councils will not need to run two separate application processes. This means that, for an eligible business with a rateable value of exactly £15,000 there will be one payment of £6,001, made up of £2,001 from the Local Restrictions Support Grant  and £4,000 from the CBLP.

Businesses that are excluded from both these grants include:

Businesses that are able to conduct their main service because they do not depend on providing direct in-person services from premises and can operate their services effectively remotely (e.g. accountants, solicitors);

Businesses in areas outside the scope of the national restrictions, as defined by Government, are also excluded; 

Businesses that have chosen to close but not been required to will not be eligible for this grant.

Additional Resources Grant (discretionary)

Local Authorities will also receive a £500 million top up to the Additional Resources Grant and this can be used to support businesses that are adversely impacted but not eligible under the LRSG (Closed) Addendum: 5 January onwards or the Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment. You should contact your Local Authority for further information on Additional Resources Grant.

Table 1: Summary details  

 

Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) Addendum: 5 January onwards

Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment

 

Business Ratepayer

YES

 

Payment cycle

 

Initially per 42 days, TBC afterwards if national restrictions continue

One-off

 

Grant threshold – rateable value £15K and under

£2,001 per 42-day period

 

£4,000

Grant threshold – Rateable value more than £15K and less than £51K

£3,000 per 42-day period

 

£6,000

Grant threshold – Rateable value £51K and above

£4,500 per 42-day period

 

£9,000

Grant per business

1 per hereditament

Applying to:  

England only

Eligibility start date of the scheme

5 January 2021

 

First payment to businesses

Combine both payments and issue as soon as funds received from Government, or before if feasible

Eligible businesses

·        

Required Mandated to close by Government under national restrictions

·        

Rate-paying business

·        

Solvent

·        

Under subsidy limits (state aid)

Ineligible businesses  

·        

Non-rate paying business

·        

Insolvent business

·        

Utilised subsidy limits (state aid)

High Court rules in Covid-19 insurance case

The High Court has now ruled in the case brought by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on insurance claims relating to business losses incurred due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In its judgment, the High Court found in favour of the FCA in the majority of cases. The FCA had asked the court to clarify the law relating to insurance claims which had been rejected by insurers.

Many rural businesses have been adversely affected by Covid-19 and have claimed under their business interruption insurance policy. Although most policies are focused on property damage and only have basic cover for business interruption as a consequence of property damage, some policies also cover for business interruption from other causes, such as infectious or notifiable diseases. In some cases, insurers have accepted liability under these policies, but in a number of others, insurers have disputed liability while policyholders considered that it existed, leading to widespread concern about the lack of clarity and certainty.

Although the judgment is complex, running to over 150 pages, it says that most, but not all, of the disease clauses in the sample of cases brought by the FCA provide cover. It also says that certain denial of access clauses provide cover, but this depends on the detailed wording of the clause and how the business was affected by the Government response to the pandemic, including for example whether the business was subject to a mandatory closure order and whether the business was ordered to close completely.

Importantly, the test case has also clarified that the Covid-19 pandemic and the Government and public response were a single cause of the covered loss, which is a key requirement for claims to be paid even if the policy provides cover.

The insurance companies are now deciding whether to appeal the judgment. In the interim, members who believe they may be affected by the judgment should contact their respective insurance companies to see if they would have been covered.

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

Local Authorities begin application process for discretionary grants

The Government has updated guidance on the Discretionary Grant Fund which is available to businesses with under 50 staff with fixed property costs that are not eligible for the Small Business Grant Fund or the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund.

There are a number of new points to be aware of:

  • Grants can be provided to businesses with a rateable value of more than £51,000;
  • Grants can be provided to self-catering businesses;
  • Businesses with more than one premise can receive more than one grant;
  • Local Authorities can give grants to businesses that are larger than SMEs;
  • Suppliers such as those in the Events sector are eligible.

Local Authorities are responsible for setting up their own applications process and anyone considering applying for a discretionary grant to visit their Local Authority website in the first instance. We are also aware that the application window is likely to be short, with some local authorities setting a 2-week application window only.

For more guidance on the detail of the scheme, click here.

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.

New Law to Ensure Furloughed Employees Receive Full Redundancy Payments

The Department for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced that legislation will be introduced to ensure that furloughed employees receive statutory redundancy pay based on their normal wages, rather than a reduced furlough rate.

It was found that some businesses have been basing redundancy payments of the 80% salaries that furloughed staff have been receiving. 

More details of the proposed changes can be found here.

New survey on self-catering accommodation: responses needed

The Professional Association of Self-Caterers UK (PASC UK) has asked us to circulate details of a National Self-Catering survey which is the first stage in preparing the most  substantive report undertaken for the sector. Resulting data will be available on a UK, Country, Region and County level and will be freely available. The survey can be accessed at: www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/pascasscoperators. The deadline for respondents is 14 February.

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.

Parents returning to work from maternity and paternity leave can still be furloughed

The Government has announced that those returning to work who have been on maternity or paternity leave are still able to be furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Following changes to the scheme and its extension by government, claims from July onwards are to be restricted to employers currently using the scheme and previously furloughed employees. This means people must be on the furlough scheme by 10 June.

However, parents on statutory maternity and paternity leave who return to work in the coming months after a long period of absence will be permitted to be furloughed.

This will only apply where they work for an employer who has previously furloughed employees.

Details on how this will work will be set out in guidance to be published on Friday, 12 June. This will also be made available on the CLA website.

Self-Employed Income package extended

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) is to extended, with eligible individuals able to claim a second and final grant in August. The eligibility criteria remains as before and individuals will need to confirm that their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. The grant will be worth 70% of average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total. This is in line with changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme announced on 29 May. The first SEISS grant, which opened for applications on 13 May, will close to new applications on 13 July. Eligible individuals will be able to make their claim for the first grant any time up to this date, and those eligible will have the money paid into their bank account within six working days of completing a claim.

Full details of the Government’s Covid-19 economic support measures can be found in the CLA member briefing.

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

Support available for businesses during 2nd Covid-19 lockdown

The Government has set out a series of support measures to assist businesses that have been ordered to close during the 2nd Covid-19 lockdown. The CLA has produced a short briefing note that details the new support arrangements which can be downloaded here.

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)

Understanding the new Kickstarter Scheme and Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Bonus

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) which started in March this year may be ending on 31 October, but the government is continuing to provide further financial assistance to employers. There is the Job Support Scheme from 1 November, the CJRS Job Retention Bonus next year and the Kickstart Scheme.

Senior legal adviser Roberta Sacaloff provides expert analysis of both schemes:

VAT deferral Scheme now open

The new VAT deferral scheme is now operational. This allows a business to:

pay deferred VAT in equal instalments, interest free;

choose the number of instalments, from 2 to 11 (depending on when the business joins).

Full details on how to join the scheme can be found here

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.

Frequently Asked Questions on lockdown in the tourism sector

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has now released a series of FAQs regarding lockdown in the tourism sector. These are set out below.

Guidance updates Q&As

  • Can the outdoor elements of botanical gardens be open, even if the indoor parts (hot houses etc) are closed?

Yes. Indoor attractions at botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks must close, but outdoor grounds of these premises can stay open

  • What does it mean for people already on holiday?

At the time that restrictions are brought in, if people are currently on holiday and it is not reasonable for them to curtail their stay, they may finish their holiday as planned; the duration of stay should only be as long as reasonably necessary and they should return home as soon as practical. People must comply with the ‘stay at home’ requirements and make every effort to reduce socialising indoors outside of their household whilst in holiday accommodation in the meantime

  • If lockdown starts at 1am Thursday what is the situation with guests already booked to stay and can hotels serve breakfast to guests leaving on Thursday morning?

Guests are allowed to finish their bookings if they were started before 5 November but the duration of stay should only be as long as reasonably necessary and they should return home as soon as it is practical to do so. They will need to comply with the ‘stay at home’ requirements in their holiday accommodation. Restaurants, dining rooms and bars in hotels will need to close from 5 November. Therefore, breakfast in the hotel restaurant cannot be served, but room service is permissible.

  • What purposes can hotels and accommodation providers remain open for?

Overnight stays and holidays away from primary residences will not be allowed. This includes staying in a second home or caravan, or staying with anyone you do not live with or are in a support bubble with. Guest accommodation providers such as hotels, B&Bs and caravan parks may remain open for the specific reasons set out in law, where guests;

  • Are unable to return to their main residence;
  • Use that accommodation as their main residence;
  • Need accommodation while moving house or attending a funeral;
  • Need to self-isolate as required by law;
  • Need accommodation for the purposes of their work, or children who need accommodation for the purposes of education;
  • Are elite athletes, their coach or (in the case of an elite athlete who is a child), the parent of an elite athlete, and need accommodation for the purposes of training or competition;
  • Are currently in that accommodation at the time when national restrictions come into force;
  • Are visiting from abroad on holiday or for work purposes;
  • Are being provided accommodation to relieve homelessness

Accommodation providers may keep their business open to provide accommodation to vulnerable groups including the homeless, to host blood donation sessions, or for any purpose requested by the Secretary of State, or a local authority.

Accommodation providers are also encouraged to work cooperatively with Local Authorities to provide accommodation to vulnerable groups including the homeless during this period of national restrictions.

  • What is the definition of “work” as a reason for stays in B&B or hotels?

Anyone who needs accommodation for the purposes of their work may stay in guest accommodation. There is no legal definition of 'work' i.e. no restriction to only allow key workers as there was during the initial national lockdown.

  • What are accommodation providers meant to do to "validate" whether a stay is for leisure or work? We cannot be expected to police the reason for a stay.

Accommodation providers should take all reasonable steps to encourage guests to adhere to government restrictions, including informing guests of restrictions when taking bookings and communicating to all customers, including those with existing bookings, reminding them not to travel unless it is essential (such as for work purposes or attending a funeral). Enforcement of the law remains a matter for the police and Local Authorities.

  • Can alcohol be served as part of hotel room service, and if so will it need to be served as part of a meal?

Food and/or drink including alcohol can be provided through room service as long as it is ordered by phone or online.

  • Can hotel lounges and lobbies stay open?

Communal spaces such as lounges or lobbies may remain open to guests but no food or drink should be served in these spaces, people should be encouraged not to gather and social distancing should be observed.

  • Are business meetings for up to 30 people still permitted?

Business meetings and events are advised against, but may take place with up to a total of 30 people if reasonably necessary - for example for the purposes of work that cannot be done at home - if social distancing can be maintained and the venue can demonstrate it has followed the COVID-19 guidance. Event spaces can be used for reasons permitted by law, including for education and training purposes where reasonably necessary.

  • Can weddings take place?

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies will not be permitted to take place except where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover (‘deathbed wedding’). These weddings are limited to 6 people.

  • Can anyone be furloughed or just people who have been furloughed previously? This is particularly an issue where businesses have recruited new staff.

All employers with a UK bank account and UK PAYE schemes can claim the grant. The employer or employee does not need to have used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme before in order to be eligible.

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.

Government issues guidance on data collection for tourism and hospitality businesses

The Government has now published guidance for tourism and hospitality businesses on the collection of data as part of the NHS Test and Trace system.

The requirement to collect this data applies to:

  • hospitality, including pubs, bars and restaurants (it does not apply to businesses operating a takeaway/delivery only basis)
  • tourism and leisure, including hotels, museums, cinemas, zoos and theme parks
  • close contact services, including hairdressers, and others as defined here
  • facilities provided by local authorities, including town halls and civic centres for events, community centres, libraries and children’s centres
  • places of worship, including use for events and other community activities

This guidance applies to any establishment that provides an on-site service and to any events that take place on its premises. It does not apply where services are taken off-site immediately, for example, a food or drink outlet which only provides takeaways. If a business offers a mixture of a sit-in and takeaway service, contact information only needs to be collected for customers who are dining in. It does not apply to drop-off deliveries made by suppliers.

The following data needs to be collected:

Staff

  • The names of staff who work at the premises
  • A contact phone number for each member of staff
  • The dates and times that staff are at work

Customers and visitors

  • The name of the customer or visitor. If there is more than one person, then you can record the name of the ‘lead member’ of the group and the number of people in the group
  • A contact phone number for each customer or visitor, or for the lead member of a group of people
  • Date of visit and arrival and, where possible, departure time.

If a customer interacts with only one member of staff, the name of the assigned staff member should be recorded alongside the name of the customer If you have a large booking, for example, at a restaurant, you only need to collect the name and contact phone number of the lead member of the party. This data needs to be kept for 21 days.

To see an example of how to log these data requirements,click here.

For further information, click here.

Government launches new £10m fund for tourism businesses

The Government has announced a new £10m scheme from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to help tourism businesses adapt after Covid-19.

The aim of the fund is to help small and medium sized tourism businesses in England to adapt to a new business environment. Grants of up to £5,000 will be available for businesses to pay for specialist professional advice, such as legal or financial assistance, the installation of new technologies including online booking platforms or to purchase new equipment.

Funding will be allocated to each of the Local Growth Hubs based on how much of their employment base is linked to tourism and hospitality businesses. Rural and coastal areas – with a bigger proportion of their economy focused on tourism, hospitality and allied sectors – should get a larger share of the funds.

The grants are funded completely by Government, meaning there is no match-funding requirement.

For further details, click here

Government updates planning guidance for campsites, caravan and holiday parks

The Government has updated planning guidance for campsites, caravans and holiday parks regarding extending the season.

In a written Ministerial Statement, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick, announced that planning conditions will be temporarily relaxed, from 14 July 2020 to 31 December 2022, to allow campsites, caravan and holiday parks to extend the open season. This applies to England only.

The statement stresses that Local Planning Authorities should not look to taking enforcement action that would restrict campsites, caravan and holiday parks from extending the open season. It is also stated that where a planning application is required to vary relevant planning conditions, for example, where they may be a risk of flooding, the Local Planning Authority should prioritise the application and make an early decision to provide certainty to the business. In making a decision, Authorities have been asked to take into account the economic importance extending the season could have on camping, caravan and holiday park businesses.

For more information, click here.

Guidance clarified on weddings after PM announcement

More guidance is now available after the Prime Minister’s statement on 31 July that certain easing of the Covid-19 lockdown would be postponed.

The statement noted that wedding receptions indoors for more than 2 households will not be allowed for at least two weeks. The updated guidance provides more details on holding weddings, including stating that the wearing of facemasks at weddings does not apply to the Bride and groom.

Wedding or civil partnership ceremonies can only go ahead where they can be done in a Covid-19 secure environment. Ceremonies should be kept as short as reasonably possible and limited as far as reasonably possible to the parts of the ceremonies that are required in order for the marriage or civil partnership to be legally binding.

No more than 30 people should attend a marriage or civil partnership, where this can be safely accommodated with social distancing in a Covid-19 secure venue. This is the maximum number for all attendees at the event, including the couple and guests. It also includes any third-party suppliers, such as photographers or security, but does not include staff employed by the venue or any third-party catering staff.

Wedding receptions or parties are not permitted to take place and any celebration after the ceremony should follow the broader social distancing guidance of involving no more than two households in any location or, if outdoors, up to 6 people from different households.

The postponement of easing the restrictions for weddings and civil partnerships is initially until 15 August.

For full details of the guidance, click here.

Restarting Private sewage treatment plants

The Environment Agency (EA) has now issued guidance for those businesses seeking to reopen on 4 July on the need for private sewage treatment plants to be made ready to be used again following a period of shutdown or low flows.

The guidance makes clear that environmental impacts need to be minimised when operators restart sewage treatment plants, warning that those who discharge poor quality effluent risk being in breach of environmental permits or the General Binding Rules if discharges cause pollution of surface water or groundwater.

Operators will need to take steps to ensure that the treatment plant is able to operate effectively as flows into it increase after their businesses reopen. Where necessary, technical advice and support should be sought from the manufacturer or supplier of the treatment plant or a competent sewage treatment plant maintenance engineer.

Visit Britain launches “Good To Go” Industry Standard

As part of the tourism industry’s efforts to help businesses reopen from 4 July, Visit Britain has launched the industry standard, “Good To Go”. To access the online portal, click here.

It is free for businesses to join.

Businesses will be assessed according to their respective national guidance. This includes social distancing and cleanliness protocols that must be in place. In England, businesses align with the UK Government’s official guidance for the sector.

Businesses that sign up to the standard will be notified of any changes to the official guidance. In addition, a call-handling service provides support. Assessors of the scheme will also carry out random spot-checks to ensure compliance.

The scheme has been developed in partnership with Tourism Northern Ireland, VisitScotland and Visit Wales to ensure a standard-led approach across the UK with input from more than 40 industry bodies including the CLA. The CLA’s Covid-19 guidance for rural tourism operators can be found here.

The self-assessment includes specific guidelines for sectors including accommodation, visitor attractions, restaurants and pubs, business conference and events venues and tour and coach operators with signposting to further industry and trade association guidance as required.

Alongside the industry-standard VisitEngland is also launching a public information campaign to support tourism in England as businesses start to re-open, reassuring visitors as restrictions are lifted by checking about what it is safe to do and when and signposting to information about destinations and available services before travelling. More details can be found at: www.visitengland.com/covid-19-travel-advice.

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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.

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 “bounce-back” strategy for food and drink

The Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Depart for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have announced a series of measures to assist food and drink exporters.

The UK’s agrifood sector contributes £121bn to the UK economy with UK food and drink exports worth some £23.7bn in 2019.

The strategy aims to support producers and exporters in existing and new international markets. The measures include:

  • The launch of a Food and drink masterclass offering a range of webinars to assist the sector;
  • A new SME E-commerce accelerate pilot scheme to provide support for food and drink SMEs:
  • The promotion of 50 food and drink Champions to help new exporters;
  • The appointment of a Defra Agri-food counsellor serving the Gulf region;
  • A new programme of events to promote the UK in order to reach international markets; and,
  • Providing support for targeted exports to the USA, China and Japan.

Further details on how to benefit from the new measures will be made available when published by the Government.

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.

Government to allow Christmas seasonal workers to work through quarantine

The Government has introduced temporary measures to allow temporary seasonal workers who enter the UK to work in the run up to Christmas to work during their quarantine period.

This means that seasonal poultry workers arriving from abroad will be able to work during their 14-day quarantine period from 4am on 17 November. But they will still need to self-isolate from the general public. That will involve forming “cohorts” of workers who can only live and work with each other. They are not allowed to mix with other employees.

Each year around 5,500 seasonal workers arrive on English farms to help during the Christmas period, including slaughtering turkeys, a job demanding high-skilled professional labour to ensure that the UK’s animal welfare standards are maintained.

Seasonal workers must comply with Covid-19 measures which include:

  • Self-isolating away from the general public for the first 14 days: workers will stay in their work/accommodation bubbles with food and other required goods delivered to them by their employer;
  • Cohorting: workers will be placed in groups with whom they will live and work, without mixing with other workers, throughout their stay, to contain any potential positive contacts;
  • Covid-secure guidance: workers and employers will be provided with clear and translated guidance jointly developed by Defra and Public Health England;
  • Time limit: all seasonal poultry workers are required to leave England by 31 December 2020, at which point the exemption will no longer be in force.

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.

Lorry and trailer MOTs to restart from 4 July

The Government has announced that MOTs for lorries and trailers will restart from 4 July. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak a series of exemptions were put in place that meant that MOTs could be delayed.

Lorries and trailer were given an automatic 3-month MOT exemption from the date it was originally due. Vehicles and trailers originally due an MOT in March or April 2020 were given two 3-month exemptions whilst those due in May, June, July or August 2020 received one 3-month exemption.

For more details of how the exemption dates apply, click 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.

Temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours to end

The Department for Transport is to stop the temporary relaxation for drivers’ hours, that has been in place since 23 March, as follows:

  • EU drivers’ temporary relaxation to end at 23.59 on Sunday 31 May;
  • UK drivers’ temporary relaxation to end at 23.59 on Sunday 14 June.

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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

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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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