COVID-19: THE LATEST
This week Prime Minister Boris Johnson met FSB members from Uxbridge, South Ruislip and Hillingdon for a virtual chat around how coronavirus is affecting small businesses. He stressed how vital small firms are to the UK’s economic recovery and thanked FSB for its efforts during the pandemic.
In England and Scotland, local lockdowns are in place in areas including Preston, while in Aberdeen restrictions have been lifted after several weeks of lockdown, meaning bars, pubs and cafes have started to trade once again. Following FSB campaigning, a local small business grant support scheme is now available.
In England, Scotland and Wales, schools have now reopened. However, nightclubs, dance halls and hostess bars are not permitted to reopen. All other venues - including gyms, swimming pools and retail shops – are now permitted to reopened.
From 1 October, business conferences and events as well as sports events in stadiums are expected to resume.
In Northern Ireland, soft play centres are still shut. Bars and private members clubs which do not serve food or do not have an outdoor space, and concert venues and theatres, are also still closed. They were due to reopen on 1 September, but this date been pushed back.
ADVICE AND OPPORTUNITIES
Furlough winds down
Firms with furloughed staff now need to contribute to their wages. The move, which took effect on Tuesday, sees the Treasury’s wage contributions fall from 80 to 70 per cent, with the scheme set to end entirely on 31 October. We’re urging the Government to look at ways to bring down the costs of hiring, including reducing Employer National Insurance Contributions, to protect jobs.
The Rail Delivery Group is launching a new initiative to remind people that train travel is a viable, normal and green way to travel. The #RailToRecovery campaign will launch on Monday and will be targeted at businesses and consumers who want extra reassurance before returning to rail travel.
The National Apprenticeships Awards are now open for applications until 25 September, with this year’s winners being recognised at virtual ceremonies. Businesses in England can apply for the SME Employer of the Year and Apprentice of the Year categories amongst others.
Businesses that have hired an apprentice in England can now apply for incentives under a new government incentive programme. To be eligible, apprentices need to have started work between 1 August 2020 and 31 January 2021. Businesses can get paid up to £2,000 for each new apprentice they take on.
Business leaders and skills professionals are invited to a free online event to discuss the role of skills in London's recovery from Covid-19 on 14 September. It will be held by the London Progression Collaboration & Institute for Public Policy Research.
NEWS AND HIGHLIGHTS
Details of the Government’s Kickstart scheme, which facilitates government-subsidised roles for young people out of work, went live this week. However, many firms were left disappointed as they would need to hire more than 30 members of staff to be eligible. FSB National Chair Mike Cherry told the Financial Times: “This could take months and result in increased cost for small firms when they need our support the most.”
Call for director rescue package
FSB Chief of External Affairs Craig Beaumont spoke to LBC’s Iain Dale to discuss how small businesses are central to economic recoveries. He called for a rescue package for those left out of the Government’s support mechanisms, including company directors and the newly self-employed. He stressed that we should now be helping people to start-up businesses and avoid dissuading them from doing so with tax hikes.
Germany trade webinar
FSB held a webinar on doing business in Germany, which was joined by experts from the German trade and investment agency, GTAI, and a panel of small business owners with experience in this area. Catch-up via Zoom.
Eat Out to Help Out ends
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, giving diners 50 per cent or up to £10 off the cost of their meal from Monday to Wednesday, ended on Monday. FSB Chief of External Affairs, Craig Beaumont, told LBC, BBC Breakfast, Yahoo News! and others that the scheme has been an overwhelming success and the Government should look at using it again.
POLITICS, PARLIAMENT AND FSB
- Parliament returned on Tuesday and we are liaising with MPs as we move into the next phase of the pandemic. We will be submitting to and taking part in a number of select committee inquiries, including trade, economic affairs and banking
- Following a discussion with FSB, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds submitted an Urgent Question in the House of Commons on the difficulties with the Kickstart scheme, as did SNP MP Neil Gray, who mentioned FSB
- We are working on the Trade Bill which is down for a second reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday
- We are working with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on reopening guidance for soft play areas and expect some movement from the Government shortly
- Party conference plans have been developed as parties emerge with more plans and FSB will play a frontline role at all three party conferences, including hosting business breakfasts and fringe events
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