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Coronavirus/COVID-19 Business Support Measures: Update 19 March 2020

Further measures have been announced by both the UK and Scottish governments to help combat the economic and business downturn as a result of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak.

Scotland Specific Measures

The Scottish Economy Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, outlined a £2.2 billion support package for Scottish businesses. This will come into effect from 1 April 2020 and replicates the measures announced earlier this week by the UK government.

This package supersedes the £320 million of support announced on 14 March 2020. The main measures announced are:

  • hospitality, retail and tourism businesses will be given 12 months of business rates relief
  • small businesses in receipt of the Small Business Scheme or Rural Relief will be able to apply for a £10,000 grant
  • businesses with a rateable value of between £18,000 and £51,000 will be able to apply for a £25,000 grant
  • 1.6% relief for all properties, which will effectively freeze the poundage rate next year
  • local authorities to be urged to relax planning rules in order to allow pubs and restaurants to act temporarily as takeaways
  • the introduction of bottle deposit return scheme will be delayed from April 2021 to July 2022
  • the introduction of the Visitor Levy Bill will be halted.

Further measures in relation to support for the self-employed, freelancers and those on contracts is believed to be imminent.

In a separate announcement, the Scottish government confirmed it is no longer planning to hold an independence referendum this year.

England Specific Measures: Update

Yesterday’s update outlined that grants of up to £10,000 should be available to all businesses eligible for small business rate relief (SBRR) or rural rate relief.  The government has clarified how these grants can be accessed.

If your business is eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, you will be contacted by your local authority – you do not need to apply.  Funding for the scheme will be provided to local authorities by government in early April. Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly.

More information can be found here on the UK.GOV website.

UK Wide Measure – Renters and Landlords Protection

Emergency legislation is to be introduced to suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.

Under the new laws, landlords will not be able to start new possession proceedings to evict tenants for at least three months. In addition, the three-month mortgage holiday announced on 18 March 2020 is being extended to Buy to Let mortgages providing relief to landlords whose tenants are experiencing difficulties due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

It will be expected that landlords and tenants will work together to establish affordable repayment plans, taking into consideration tenants’ individual circumstances, at the end of the period.

UK Wide Measure – School Closures

With the UK government following Scotland’s decision to close schools and nurseries from 20 March 2020 until further notice, more clarification is expected in relation to the “key workers” whose children can still go to school along with the future of the exam process and how pupils could be awarded grades should exams not take place.

We appreciate there are still many changes and challenges yet to come.  If you would like further guidance please get in touch and one of our partners will be happy to help.

For information in relation to GWA’s contingency plans to provide ongoing assistance for clients please see our latest update.

Information correct as of 19 March 2020

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