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: 8 April 2020

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)

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: VAT payment deferral - you must still cancel your VAT direct debit

The UK Government is deferring VAT payments for 3 months. If you choose to defer your VAT payment, you should contact your bank to cancel your direct debit. For more information, click here to download the members-only briefing on the UK Government's business support measures

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


Most recent updates:

8 April

  • Latest guidance on access
  • Government guidance on telecoms deployment in England
  • PASC offers advice to tourism self-caterers
  • Environment Agency sets out position on waste management and the water industry
  • Public Health England guidance on using face masks
  • £20 million to tackle global disruption
  • Funding for bus operators to maintain services

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CLA Member-only Briefings

The CLA is producing a series of Business 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 (LOGIN REQUIRED)

Members can also download a template that they can use themselves and for their workers to show that they are travelling for essential work. Download the document here

For more information on how to register and log in to MyCLA click here

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Latest advice from the UK Government

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

Further details can be found here: https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/

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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.

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£20 million to tackle global disruption

Innovate UK has created a £20m competition for businesses with innovations to ease global disruption. The competition is open until 17 April.

Businesses can attract up to £50,000 as an upfront grant payment to cover the full costs of a project lasting up to 6 months. Projects with strong potential could attract follow-on funding.

Ideas should aim to help key industries and services disrupted by the pandemic and its aftermath. For example, this could include:

  • new ways for families to connect with and remotely monitor their elderly or vulnerable relatives and ensure they are receiving what they need, including food deliveries, doctor appointments and help to pay bills
  • technology to help retailers to better respond better to spikes in customer demand, including to ensure they can deliver country-wide

More details and how to apply can be found here.

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Access to private land in the countryside

Defra issued guidance on 3rd April in relation to public rights of way which provides advice and clarification to landowners of the measures they may take in the management of routes across their land. The advice is in response to CLA lobbying and can be found at here. This should be read in conjunction with CLA guidance for members at here.

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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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/)

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Basic Payments Scheme and May 15 deadline

Defra fieldwork visits suspended

3 April update: Defra has suspended the majority of fieldwork visits to farms and other types of land to protect both staff and Defra customers by reducing person-to-person contact and eliminating non-essential trips from the home. This includes Countryside Stewardship and Basic Payment Scheme inspections.

Certain high-priority fieldwork, visits and inspections, however, will continue, such as those to protect the environment, identify and control plant and animal disease and protect animal welfare.

Members should contact their regional offices in the Rural Payments Agency, Natural England and the Forestry Commission for more information. 

*

March update: Concern has been raised that, with the COVID-19 outbreak, professional advisers may be unable to visit farmers before the BPS May 15 deadline. This would make it difficult for applicants to meet the deadline.

The CLA has been liaising directly with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), Defra and Natural England regarding the administration of the Basic Payment, Countryside Stewardship and Countryside Productivity Schemes. We have had initial discussions around inspections, drop-in centres and application deadlines but at this stage there is nothing concrete. We will share information with members at the earliest opportunity.

The Rural Payments Agency has confirmed that BPS 2020 payments will be paid in sterling using the exchange rate for BPS 2019 at €1 = £0.89092.

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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

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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.

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Business closures and restricted business operating

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

The Enforcement of Business Closures

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

Permission for Pubs and Restaurants to Operate as Takeaways

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

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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.

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Business insurance

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

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

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

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

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

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Business rates and grant funding

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

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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.

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Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

Government improves rules around the Business Loan Scheme

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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Customs – UK Government guidance on moving goods through customs

The Government is to relax the rules relating to the movement of goods through customs as a result of Covid-19. If a trader is no longer able to meet a condition of the customs authorisation they can seek permission from the supervising office in HMRC or Border Force to temporarily vary the conditions of the authorisation.

A trader can apply to temporarily vary the following conditions of the customs approval:

  • changes to site opening hours
  • the need for staff to be on site in order to carry out a particular function if that function can be completed remotely
  • the specific areas within an approved location in which customs controls must be conducted
  • reducing dwell times to allow quicker permission to progress
  • time limits for bills of discharge and throughput periods for special procedures
  • how to process goods held in temporary storage over 90 days

Temporary changes to authorisations can be made by emailing the supervising office with the subject 'COVID-19 customs easement request'. Applications will be looked at on a case by case basis.

Further information can be fund: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/customs-authorisations-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19 and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/moving-goods-through-customs-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19

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Drivers' hours to be relaxed

The UK Government announced on 20 March that it has introduced a temporary relaxation of drivers' hours for all movement of goods by road. The relaxation starts from Monday 23 March to Tuesday 21 April.

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

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

EU drivers' rules

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

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

GB drivers' rules

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

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

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

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

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Environment Agency sets out position on waste management and the water industry

The Environment Agency has published to regulatory position statements on waste management and the water industry to help businesses cope with the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The aim of the position statements is to help minimise risks to the environment and human health where, for reasons beyond businesses’ control, compliance with certain regulatory requirements is not possible due to COVID-19. They also cover specific circumstances where the normal regulatory requirements are being relaxed to avoid increasing risks to the environment or human health during the outbreak.

If businesses use the guidance set out in the position statements, they must comply with both its:

  • specific conditions – including any requirements to notify us or get Environment Agency’s approval to use it; and,
  • requirements concerning pollution and harm to human health.

If businesses comply, the Environment Agency has said that it will not normally take enforcement action. More information can be found here.

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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

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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

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Farm Labour - more needs to be done

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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:

Grants and funds: for the following schemes, contact:

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.

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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

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Funding for bus operators to maintain services

The Department for Transport is allocating nearly £400m to bus operators to ensure that routes are kept open. The twin aims of this funding is to provide services to local communities as well as ensure that key workers are able to travel to work. Operators will also be required to keep passengers properly informed about revised timetables to ensure that people know which services are running and when.

Further details can be found here.

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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

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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: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cash-support-for-food-redistribution-...

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:

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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.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

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

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

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

A member-only guidance note will be posted on the CLA website.

Full details can be found here.

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 n o penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.

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Government guidance on telecoms deployment in England

In its latest guidance on telecoms infrastructure deployment during the outbreak the Government has made it clear that work to repair and maintain the telecommunications network will be allowed to continue and gatherings of more than two people are permitted where this is essential for these purposes.

Where emergency access rights have been conferred to a telecoms provider by a landowner, it is important that access is provided by the landowner. Telecommunications engineers can enter properties in order to maintain the network and correct faults as long as social distancing is maintained.

For more information, go to: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/covid-19-guidance-for-telecommunications-infrastructure-deployment-in-england

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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Keeping children safe while at home on the farm

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has reiterated its guidance for children who are at home on the farm during the outbreak.

HSE guidance states that:

Children should not be allowed in the farm work place (and for young children they should enjoy outdoor space in a secure fenced area).

Any access to the work area by children under 16, for example for education, or knowledge, experience, should be planned and fully supervised by an adult not engaged in any work activity.

Children under the age of 13 years are specifically prohibited from driving or riding on any agricultural machine.

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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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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.

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Latest guidance on access

Defra has issued guidance regarding public rights of way, providing advice and clarification to landowners on the measures they may take in managing routes across their land. The advice is in response to CLA lobbying and can be found at here. This should be read in conjunction with CLA guidance for members, which can be found here.

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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.

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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/

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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

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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

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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: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-mots-for-cars-vans-and-motorcycles-due-from-30-march-2020

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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

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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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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 here.

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PASC offers advice to tourism self-caterers

The Professional Association for Self Caterers (PASC) has launched a new Covid-19 webpage to help those affected by the outbreak. This includes the range of measures being taken, the level of support being offered and advice on cancellations and re-bookings.

The CLA will be working closely with PASC to lobby government on issues of common interest among our membership. This includes insurance and actions on cancellations and refunds.

For more information about PASC go to: https://www.pascuk.co.uk/covid-19

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Public Health England guidance on using face masks

Public Health England (PHE) has updated its guidance on the wearing of face masks. The new guidance states that face masks do not need to be worn in public places and for those working in supermarkets, waste collection, schools and similar settings.

PHE is advising employers to ensure that:

  • spaces in the workplace are optimised to allow social distancing to occur, wherever possible
  • signs are visible in the workplace reminding employees not to attend work if they have a fever or cough and to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • employees are provided with hand sanitiser for frequent use and regular breaks to allow them to wash their hands for 20 seconds.

Further details can be found here.

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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

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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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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.

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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.

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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

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

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Social distancing - new UK Government measures to enforce social distancing

The UK Government has introduced new measures that will close all pubs, bars and restaurants from Friday 20 March.

The measures are to reviewed on a monthly basis and apply to all affected establishments in the UK. However, supermarkets or retailers that supply fuel, medicines, and other vital goods, will continue to be open as normal. 

The new rules apply to:

  • Food and drink venues for consumption on-site, such as restaurants and cafes;
  • Drinking establishments, including pubs, bars, nightclubs;
  • Entertainment venues, including cinemas, theatres, concert halls, and bingo halls;
  • Museums and galleries;
  • Spas, wellness centres and massage parlours;
  • Casinos and betting shops; and,
  • All indoor leisure and sports facilities, including gyms

The CLA will be discussing these new measures with the insurance sector to further clarify the situation for members.

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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

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Tourism and Covid-19

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

19 March tourism update

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

Work is ongoing on:

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

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

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All UK caravan and motorhome club sites closed

The Caravan and Motorhome Club has announced that, following Government advice on social distancing, all of its sites have closed as of Sunday 22 March 2020. This includes the Certificated Locations network and all CL sites are being advised of closure. All UK sites and CLs will remain closed until 30 June 2020.

It is stressed that if a tourist has an imminent booking they should not travel to site. All sites with imminent bookings are being contacted.

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VAT – Temporary deferral of VAT payments

The UK Government has updated its guidance on VAT payments. If a VAT registered business has a VAT payment due between 20 March and 30 June, it can defer the payment to a later date or pay as normal. VAT returns will still need to be submitted on time.

If payment of VAT is deferred, it will need to be paid by 31 March 2021. Full details can be found: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/deferral-of-vat-payments-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19

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VAT – Temporary deferral of VAT payments

The UK Government has updated its guidance on VAT payments. If a VAT registered business has a VAT payment due between 20 March and 30 June, it can defer the payment to a later date or pay as normal. VAT returns will still need to be submitted on time.

If payment of VAT is deferred, it will need to be paid by 31 March 2021. Full details can be found: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/deferral-of-vat-payments-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19

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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

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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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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.

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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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