Weekly Brief 17

News 24 Apr 2020

Friday 24 April

A wrap of the week's small business news from FSB's Westminster Press, Policy and Public Affairs Office. To sign-up for Weekly Brief emails, please use this link.

We want to hear from you

Coronavirus hub

FSB has secured a hugely ambitious package of government measures aimed at supporting the small business and self-employed community through this difficult period. Please visit our dedicated coronavirus hub for information and guidance as well as the Government's support hub. If you are impacted by current disruption we'd like to hear from you - please get in touch. 

Covid-19 survey

We’ve launched a new coronavirus survey this week, open to all small businesses. We want to hear how the Covid-19 pandemic is impacting your business. Take part online.

Latest Advice and Opportunities

Support finder

The Government has launched a new tool to help small businesses find out what coronavirus financial support they are eligible for, including loans, tax reliefs and cash grants.

Trade disruption due to coronavirus

FSB is interested in hearing from members engaged in international trade who have experienced disruption due to the pandemic. Have you encountered any disruption to supply chains? Are you still able to ship orders to international customers without any problems? Have you seen an increase in logistic costs? To share your experiences, please e-mail us.

Wellbeing hub

The spread of Covid-19 will be causing stress and worry for small businesses and the self-employed, so it's more important than ever to take steps to support your own mental health and that of any employees you may have. Our dedicated wellbeing hub includes resources that can help.

Facebook group

FSB has launched a Facebook group for members, small business owners and the self-employed to chat, share best practice and offer support to each other. Now 4,000-strong, we'd love you to join in the conversation. 

The Small Biz Week In Review

Monday

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme portal went live on the HMRC website, enabling employers to claim back 80 per cent of furloughed employees’ wages up to £2,500 a month. FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry told the BBC that the system had “held up” on day one, but that the real mark of success for this scheme will be the swift transfer of funds into business accounts.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the launch of a £1.25 billion Coronavirus package – a Future Fund – for the innovation and tech sector. FSB welcomed the move, which will support many of the small firms who are driving innovation in the UK.

Elsewhere, FSB Director of External Affairs Craig Beaumont appeared on BBC’s Look North to discuss the accessibility of emergency loans for small firms. He expressed FSB’s hope for a V-shaped economic recovery, stressing that small businesses and the self-employed will play a fundamental role in helping the UK to bounce back post crisis.

Tuesday

The Telegraph reported on how authorities have been urged to do everything in their power to make sure businesses owed grants receive them soon to help them stay afloat during the lockdown. Some councils have already allocated funds, while others have given out only a tenth. Mike Cherry told the paper it is “inexcusable” to fail to send the cash out.

FSB’s Covid-19 survey was launched for members and non-members.

Wednesday

FSB’s construction chair Roni Savage, managing director of Jomas Associates, published a blog on how to carry out sitework safely in the construction sector during the Covid-19 pandemic. It includes a comprehensive range of considerations, from traveling to work, to site access and rest areas.

Thursday

UK Finance revealed that the banking and finance sector has provided £2.8billion to SME’s through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). Responding to the figures in the Independent, Mike Cherry said: “These figures mark an improvement. But we ned to see far more money from the banks where the speed of processing applications and making money available to the smallest businesses are concerned.”

Friday

The Treasury confirmed it is considering offering 100 per cent guarantees on emergency loans of up to £25,000 for small firms. Head of Policy Sonali Parekh appeared on The Shelagh Fogarty Show on LBC this afternoon to discuss the development.

The news follows comments from Mike Cherry in this morning’s Times in which he flagged that “we continue to hear from firms that made inquiries when this scheme launched but have still been unable to make an application because of unresponsive customer service teams. For those that have made an application the process is very slow.”

From the Corridors of Power

We continue to lobby Government on all areas of the economic response to Covid-19, including Special Advisers in No 10 and the Treasury, Parliamentarians of all parties, and central Government departments. We are taking up a raft of issues with different departments and MPs, now that Parliament has returned in semi-virtual format and the Job Retention Scheme live, that have been raised by our membership: pressing the case for action on issues like extending grant money to small businesses who currently find themselves outside the eligibility criteria, nailing down issues with CBILS (in particular pressing on the 80%-100% underwriting guarantee), and delivering some form of flexibility within the furlough scheme that makes sense as we eye recovery for our businesses.

We have written to members of Sir Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet team, including the Shadow Business Secretary, and the Shadow Small Business Minister, as well as their staff regarding subject updates regarding Covid19 business support. Parliament is back, on a Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday format.

Next week is set to be very busy with an Economic Statement set to be made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Monday afternoon, as well as the Finance Bill being laid before the House. We are working hard with several MPs hoping to speak in the Economic Statement debate, as well as some who may be down to contribute to Prime Minister’s Questions, to raise issues of policy interest to FSB.

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