Coronavirus presents a unprecedented challenge, but we can assure you that Rugby First will continue to make every effort to maintain our CCTV, Rangers and cleaning services to keep the town centre clean and safe during these difficult times, as well as supporting town centre businesses.

Tier 3 Restrictions

The Government’s new three-tier system of COVID restrictions once lockdown ends next week place Rugby in Tier 3 – Very High Alert. Here is a recap on what being in this tier means for local residents and businesses:

  • You must not meet socially indoors or in most outdoor places with anybody you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble.
  • The ‘rule of 6’ applies outdoors to some limited public areas.
  • Hospitality venues – pubs, cafés and restaurants are closed – but they are allowed to offer takeaway, click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery services.
  • Hotels must close.
  • Indoor entertainment, attractions and tourist venues must close.

In all tiers:

  • Leisure and sports facilities may continue to stay open, but group exercise classes cannot go ahead.
  • Hair and beauty salons are allowed to remain open.
  • Essential and non-essential retail, including indoor and outdoor markets and car boot sales can re-open.
  • Public buildings, such as libraries, community centres and halls can reopen.
  • Allotments, recycling and waste centres, public toilets, car parks
  • Places of worship can now resume, subject to relevant social contact rules in each tier.
  • Everyone who can work from home should continue to do so.

The system will be regularly reviewed based on public health recommendations and the first review is scheduled for 16 December.

COVID Winter Recovery Plan

Boris Johnson has confirmed that the national lockdown will end on Wednesday 2 December, to be replaced with the new tier system in the COVID Winter Recovery Plan announced on Monday 23 November.

Non-essential shops, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools, sports pitches, hairdressers, beauty salons, synagogues, churches and mosques will be allowed to reopen under all tiers. There are some varying conditions under each tier. However, there are different rules for the hospitality industry, indoor entertainment industry, socialising and travel under each tier.

Hospitality and indoor entertainment 

In Tier 1, bars, pubs and restaurants will operate table service only, and must stop taking orders at 10pm, before closing at 11pm. Indoor entertainment venues – such as cinemas, theatres, bowling alleys and casinos – will be allowed to stay open but live indoor performances will be limited to 50 per capacity or 1,000, whichever is smaller.

In Tier 2, alcohol may only be served in hospitality settings as part of a substantial meal, before last order at 10pm and venues being forced close at 11pm. Indoor entertainment venues can open with and social distancing and limits of 50 per cent capacity or 1,000 people.

In Tier 3, hospitality venues must close apart from delivery and takeaway.  Indoor entertainment venues – such as cinemas, theatres, bowling alleys and casinos – will remain closed.

Socialising, travel and overnight stays 

Only those in Tier 1 areas will be able to meet people they don’t live with indoors. They can also meet with people outdoors, subject to the rule of six.

In Tier 1, the stay home message is also being lifted although people will still be encouraged to minimise their movements and to work from home where possible. Overnight stays will be permitted if they are limited to a support bubble, household or up to six people.

People in Tier 2 can’t socialise with other households indoors but can meet people outside under the rule of six. Overnight stays will only be permitted for those in the same household or support bubble and accommodation can open.

People will be encouraged to reduce the number of journeys they make and to avoid travelling into Tier 3 areas, except for reasons of education or work.

Those in Tier 3 can’t mix with other households indoors, or in private and pub gardens. They can meet under the rule of six in outdoor public spaces, such as parks and sports courts.

People will be told to avoid travelling out of the area other than where necessary and to reduce the number of journeys. No overnight stays will be permitted outside the local area, except for work or education, with accommodation to stay closed. There are exceptions for childcare and support bubbles. People are advised not to travel to and from Tier 3 areas.

Weddings

Under all tiers, 15 guests will be allowed at weddings and civil partnerships, increasing to 30 for funerals. But wedding receptions are banned in Tier 3.

Places of worship

Places of worship can reopen, but people must not interact with more than six people. Under Tier 2 and Tier 3, people must not interact with anyone outside their household or support bubble at places of worship.

Boost for pubs and restaurants

Restaurants, pubs and cafés will get automatic freedoms to provide takeaway services for another year, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced today (11 November )

This follows the rules being relaxed in March so businesses could offer a takeaway service during the pandemic, without having to go through a planning application process. This was due to end on 23 March 2021 but will now be extended by another year. The government will also consider whether to make these reforms permanent.

Whilst pubs and restaurants are currently restricted from selling alcohol on their premises to take away (but can still provide delivery or click and collect) due to the national COVID restrictions in England, the law before March would have restricted pubs and restaurants from choosing to only offer food takeaway services.

The freedoms introduced in March and extended today mean pubs and restaurants can focus on selling food takeaways if they choose to, while being able to return to operating as a pub or restaurant from 2 December.

In July, the government also made it easier for businesses and communities to host markets and stalls. Mr Jenrick has extended this option for the whole of next year. Again, the government will consider whether to make these reforms permanent.

Last summer the government introduced laws to provide greater freedom over how people use their land. This doubled the length of time that temporary structures can be placed on land without needing an application for planning permission.

The time limits in the existing right for the temporary use of land were doubled from 14 days to 28 days for holding a market or motor car and motorcycle racing, and from 28 days to 56 days for any other purpose. This makes it easier to host markets, stalls, marquees, car boot sales and fairs for longer without needing a planning application. This was due to expire on 31 December 2020 and is now being extended by another year until 31 December 2021.

Furlough scheme extended to March 2021

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) – better known as the furlough scheme – will be extended until the end of March 2021.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on Thursday 5 November that furloughed employees will receive up to 80% of their average earnings, worth up to £2,500 a month, until the end of March 2021. This will be available to workers in all UK nations.

The CJRS had been due to finish on 31 October 2020, however it was initially extended until December due to the announcement that England would go into a full four-week lockdown to curb rising coronavirus infections. Under the terms of the CJRS extension, the government will pay 80% of a worker’s salary, while the employer will have to meet the cost of National Insurance payments and pension contributions. This makes the scheme operate on the same terms as it did in August.

The Government is also extending the Bounce Back Loans and Coronavirus Interruption Loans until the end of January 2021.

Second national lockdown

As the second national lockdown was announced on Saturday (31 October) the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the Furlough scheme) has been extended until December. Employees will receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500.

In addition, business premises forced to close in England are to receive grants worth up to £3,000 per month under the Local Restrictions Support Grant. Also, £1.1bn is being given to local authorities, distributed on the basis of £20 per head, for one-off payments to enable them to support businesses more broadly.

You can read the Prime Minister’s full speech here

New financial measures for businesses in lockdown

The Chancellor has announced new measures which will provide some further support against the economic hardships that businesses in Rugby are facing. Rugby is in Tier 1 (Medium Risk) so the following measures apply to our town:-

Extension of the Job Support Scheme – The scheme will reduce the employer contribution to the salaries of those workers retained on a part-time basis. It will help those businesses in the hospitality sector, in particular, retain their staff.  To access JSS, employees need to work a minimum of 20% of their normal hours (reduced from 33%) and Government will only expect employers to meet 5% of the unworked remainder of salary costs (down from 33%). Government will fund the remainder.

Employers using the scheme will also be able to claim the Job Retention Bonus for each employee that meets the eligibility criteria of the JRB. This is worth £1,000 for every employee retained in employment until at least February 2021.

Financial support for the self-employed has been increased – The government will provide two taxable SEISS grants to support those experiencing reduced demand due to COVID-19 but are continuing to trade, or temporarily cannot trade. Grants will be paid in two lump sum instalments each covering 3 months and will take the form of taxable grants which are calculated based on 40% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £3,750.

The Chancellor’s full speech is available here 

New grants for retailers forced to close in lockdown

The UK Government will pay two thirds of the wages of staff in retailers and other businesses if they are forced to close under new coronavirus restrictions, the Chancellor announced on Friday 9 October.

Rishi Sunak said the expansion of the Jobs Support Scheme would protect jobs and provide “reassurance and a safety net” for people and businesses across the UK in advance of a potentially “difficult winter”.

The new measures would mean that eligible businesses would receive grants to pay wages of staff who cannot work due to new lockdown restrictions. The Government would pay two thirds of each employee’s salary (67%) up to a maximum of £2100 a month for six months.

It comes as ministers are expected to outline a three-tier local lockdown system on Monday 12 October, which could see hospitality venues in coronavirus hotspots being temporarily closed to combat the spread of the virus.

Chancellor outlines Winter Economy Plan

Today (Thursday 24 September) the Chancellor has announced a new raft of financial measures to support businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, which include:

  • Introducing a new Job Support Scheme
  • Extending the Self Employment Income Support Scheme
  • Increasing the flexibility of terms for pay back of loans
  • Maintaining the 5% VAT rate for hospitality and tourism businesses until March 2021.

The full details are available here

Updated coronavirus measures

Earlier today, (Tuesday 22 September) the Prime Minister announced further COVID measures to try and reduce the spread of coronavirus.

From Thursday, all pubs, bars and restaurants must only operate a table service and close at 10pm. Hospitality workers, along with retail staff and taxi drivers are also now required to wear a face covering. In retail, leisure and tourism and other sectors, the Government’s COVID-secure guidelines will now become legal obligations.

There are also changes to the ‘rue of six’ on groups, where the number of people able to attend a wedding has been reduced to 15 (but funerals remain at 30 for now). Indoor team sports will also have to follow this rule.

The spread of the virus is now affecting the ability to reopen business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events from 1 October, so the Government has confirmed that it will not be possible do this.

These rules will be enforced by tighter penalties. A fine of up to £10,000 for those who fail to self-isolate is already in place and such fines will now be applied to businesses breaking COVID rules. The penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six will now double to £200 for a first offence.

The Government has pledged to provide the police and local authorities with the extra funding they need for enforcement.

Read the PM’s speech in full here  

NHS COVID-19 app

The Department of Health and Social Care is urging pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, cinemas and other venues to download QR codes to prepare for public rollout of a new COVID-19 app.

Using QR codes will help businesses meet the new legal requirement to record the contact details of customers, visitors and staff on their premises.

The NHS COVID-19 app is currently being trialled and will launch on Thursday 24 September in England and Wales.

When someone enters a venue and scans an official QR poster, the venue information will be logged on the user’s phone. This information will stay on a user’s phone for 21 days and if during that time a coronavirus outbreak is identified at a location, the venue ID in question will be sent to all devices. The device will check if users have been at that location and if the app finds a match, users may get an alert with advice on what to do based on the level of risk.

The QR system is free, easy to use and helps preserve the privacy of customers checking into venues, and we encourage all businesses to get involved and download and display the official NHS QR code posters.

Businesses should download the QR codes at the Government’s website.

 

Gatherings of more than six people are banned

Amid a steep rise in coronavirus cases, social gatherings of more than six people (both indoors and outdoors) have been banned from Monday 14 September. If people fail to comply fines of £100 will be imposed up to a maximum of £3,200.

Also as part of these measures, hospitality venues will be mandated to obtain customer contact details and COVID marshals to be introduced to help enforce social distancing rules.

Schools, workplaces, Covid-secure weddings, funerals and organised team sports will be exempt.

During the PM press conference, Boris Johnson added that plans to return large scale audiences to theatres, stadiums and conference venues would be under review and that it was too early to say whether or not Christmas parties and events can go ahead.

New Retail and Hospitality Recovery Fund (now closed)

Warwickshire County Council is establishing a small number of Covid-19 recovery and investment programmes, as part of an initial £5 million package of funding approved by council to support the immediate economic recovery in the county.

The new Retail and Hospitality Recovery and Investment Fund offers grants of £2,000 to £7,500 towards the costs of capital investments. It is designed to help micro and small businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors fund capital investment projects which sustain their business, safeguard jobs and support its future growth.

Eligible costs include refurbishing or refitting property to increase footfall or improve visitors’ experiences, creating an online sales presence, investing in dedicated IT and computer software, and the purchase of minor equipment.

Grants are only available towards the costs of tangible capital assets for businesses with a minimum of one year’s trading history.

Before applying, please read the guidance notes  and the application form can be accessed here

The closing date for applications is Friday 11 September.

 

Specialist Grant Fund  (NOW CLOSED)

Applications open today (Monday 24 August) for the Specialist Grant Fund. SME’s can apply for grants of between £1,000 – £3,000 to help them access new technology and other equipment as well as professional, legal, financial or other advice to help them get back on track. Administered by Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, more details and how to apply are available here 

Further easing of lockdown measures

More lockdown measures are being eased from Saturday 15 August. Under the latest changes:

  • Indoor theatre, music and performance venues will be able to reopen with socially distanced audiences
  • Wedding receptions in the form of a sit-down meal for up to 30 guests will be permitted
  • The piloting of a small number of sporting events to test the safe return of spectators will resume.
  • Casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and soft play centres will be allowed to reopen
  • “Close contact” beauty services such as facials, eyebrow threading, eyelash treatments, make up application and microblading can resume.
  • Pilots will take place at conference venues ahead of the expected resumption of business events from 1 October.
£20M in new grants for small businesses

Simon Clarke MP, Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, has announced today (30 July) £20 million of new funding to help small businesses recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Small and medium sized businesses will have access to grants of between £1,000 – £5,000 to help them access new technology and other equipment as well as professional, legal, financial or other advice to help them get back on track.

The support will be fully funded by the government from the England European Regional Development Fund and distributed through Growth Hubs, embedded in local areas across England.

More details can be found at the Coventry & Warwickshire LEP contact@cwlep.com

 

Business events to resume in October

Business events and conferences will be permitted to resume from 1 October provided rates of infection remain at current levels, which will see the return of the sector worth approximately £32.6 billion to the UK each year.

A number of pilots will take place at event venues across the country to plan for a return to large-scale events and test how best to implement social distancing practises. Details of these pilots will be finalised in partnership with the sector in the coming weeks.

New guidance, published by the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport and the Association of Event Organisers will help event organisers, venue operators and participants in the UK understand how they can work and host business events and conferences and keep both their guests and staff safe.

You can read more here

New lockdown easing measures announced

Coronavirus restrictions will ease further in England under plans for a “significant return to normality” by Christmas, Boris Johnson has announced today (Friday 17 July).

Under the new guidelines, people may use public transport for journeys immediately, while advice for employers will change from 1 August giving companies more discretion to bring staff back to workplaces if it is safe to do so.

  • From 25 July indoor gyms, pools and other sports facilities can reopen
  • On 1 August the government will update its advice on going to work, asking employers to make decisions about how and where their staff can work safely
  • From the same date, most remaining leisure settings, including bowling, skating rinks, casinos and all close contact services such as beauticians, will be allowed to reopen
  • Live indoor theatre and concerts will be able to resume with socially distanced audiences
  • Wedding receptions for up to 30 people will also be allowed from next month
  • From September, schools, nurseries and colleges will be open for all children and young people on a full-time basis, while universities are also working to reopen as fully as possible
  • From October, the government intends to allow audiences to return to stadiums, while conferences and other business events can recommence, subject to the outcome of pilots
£100 fines for not wearing facemasks

The Government has announced that from Friday 24 July it will be mandatory to wear a facemask / covering inside shops and supermarkets.

For people failing to do so, the police will be able to issue a fine of up to £100. As with public transport, children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.

The Government has also published new guidance on how to dispose of your personal or business waste, including face coverings and personal protective equipment (PPE), during the coronavirus pandemic has been published here

Key details include:

  • Provide extra bins for your staff and customers to throw away their waste face coverings and PPE used for social distancing, and any other additional waste, such as takeaway packaging and disposable tableware;
  • Make sure that staff and customers do not put face coverings and PPE in a recycling bin as they cannot be recycled through conventional recycling facilities;
  • Make sure bins are emptied often so they do not overflow and create litter;
  • You can put used disposable face coverings and PPE in an ‘offensive waste’ collection (yellow bags with a black stripe), if you have one; and
  • Ask your waste contractor if there is anything else you need to do.
Eat Out to Help Out

The Government’s new campaign will run on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3rd to 31st August in eligible, registered cafes, coffee shops and restaurants. It will offer a 50% discount up to a maximum of £10 per person on food and non-alcoholic drinks to eat or drink in. It can be used an unlimited number of time by diners and excludes alcohol, service charges and takeaway.

  • 13th July – Registration opens via this page 
  • 3rd August – First date that you can offer the discount.
  • 7th August – Start of reimbursement claims (but you must allow 7 days from date of registration to date of claiming reimbursement) which will be paid within 5 working days of claim.
  • 31st August – Last date customers can use their vouchers.
  • 30th September – End of scheme.

As well as downloading the promotional materials to show that you are taking part in the scheme, let us know too and we will promote your business on our Facebook page and Taste website.

Chancellor’s Summer Economic Update

The Chancellor delivered his Summer Economic Update in Parliament on Wednesday 8th July. This outlined a package of measures to support jobs in every part of the country, give businesses the confidence to retain and hire, and provide people with the tools they need to get better jobs.

Key points to note:

  • Job Retention Bonus:To help firms keep on furloughed workers, UK Employers will receive a one-off bonus of £1,000 for each furloughed employee who is still employed as of 31 January 2021.
  • Kickstart Scheme: A new £2 billion scheme will also be launched to create hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people across the country. Those aged 16-24, claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment, will be eligible. Funding available for each six-month job placement will cover 100% of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week – and employers will be able to top this wage up.
  • Employment and support schemes:A total of £1.6 billion will be invested in scaling up employment support schemes, training and apprenticeships to help people looking for a job.
  • Creating jobs: The plan will also create tens of thousands of jobs through bringing forward work on £8.8 billion of new infrastructure, decarbonisation and maintenance projects. In addition, £5.8 billion will be spent on shovel-ready construction projects to get Britain building.
  • Eat Out to Help Out:To encourage people to safely return to eating out at restaurants the Government’s new discount scheme will provide a 50% reduction for sit-down meals in cafes, restaurants and pubs across the UK from Monday to Wednesday every week throughout August 2020. Up to a maximum of £10 per person.
  • VAT: The rate of VAT applied on most tourism and hospitality-related activities will be cut from 20% to 5%.
  • Stamp Duty: A temporary increase to the Nil Rate Band of Residential SDLT (Stamp Duty) from £125,000 to £500,000 has been introduced until 31 March 2021.
Arts venues welcome Government support

The government has unveiled a £1.57bn support package to help protect the futures of UK theatres, galleries, museums and other cultural venues.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told BBC Breakfast new grants and loans aim to preserve “crown jewels” in the UK’s art sector as well as local venues. It follows several weeks of pressure, with industry leaders warning that many venues were on the brink of collapse.

Independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues will also be eligible.

Guidance for a phased return of the performing arts, starting with performances behind closed doors and rehearsals, is expected to be published by the government shortly.

Mr Dowden said that He said institutions applying for the new grants and loans through industry bodies would have to prove how they contribute to wider economic growth. The support pot for cultural organisations in England is made up of £880m in grants and £270m of repayable loans.

 

Google’s support package for small businesses

Google has announced it is giving £25m worth of free ad spend to British small businesses as part of a wider SME help package.

Qualifying UK small businesses will be awarded up to £800 in ad spend grants, applied to their existing Google advertising accounts.

The gift is part of a wider package of help for British small businesses including help for getting businesses noticed in internet searches and 10,000 hours of free business mentoring for UK SMEs and charities.

 

Updated guidelines for pubs, restaurants and hairdressers

New Covid-19 secure guidance for the hospitality sector and hairdressers means businesses will be able to reopen in England from 4 July, provided they meet government criteria for keeping staff and customers as safe as possible.

Working alongside over 300 key industry stakeholders and trade unions, the government has developed clear plans in line with scientific advice and public health directions, building on existing guidance published on 11 May. The new guidance sets out a range of measures for pubs and restaurants to become Covid-19 secure, including:

  • requiring use of table service where possible instead of ordering at the bar and assigning a single staff member per table
  • encouraging use of contactless ordering from tables where available, such as through an app
  • discouraging non-essential trips by staff within venues, such as between the kitchen and front of house, by using radios and other electronic devices to communicate
  • encouraging customers to use hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities as they enter the venue
  • providing clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene as people arrive on the premises, with signage and visual aids

Separate guidance has been published for hairdressers, which states that a clear visor should be worn by the person providing the service, covering the face and providing a barrier between the wearer and the customer from respiratory droplets caused by sneezing, coughing or speaking.

The government is also consulting with industry on how businesses should record customer information to help keep customers and employees safe and support the new test and trace system.

Updated guidance for bars, pubs and restaurants can be downloaded here

Updated guidance for barbers and hairdressers can be downloaded here

 

Prime Minister sets out new openings for 4 July

Today the Prime Minister announced a new series of measures to ease lockdown restrictions. From 4th July:

  • The 2 metre social distancing rule would be reduced to 1 metre
  • Pubs, bars and restaurants could open
  • Hairdressers and barbers could open
  • Hotels B&Bs, hostels and caravan parks could open
  • Cinemas, museums, libraries, places of worship, outdoor playgrounds and gyms, social clubs and theatres could open
  • Two households will be able to meet in any setting
  • From Monday 6 July, those shielding from coronavirus can gather in groups of up to six people outdoors and form a ‘support bubble’ with another household and Government shielding support package will remain in place until the end of July.

All businesses reopening must be able to ensure they are COVID-secure.

As the economy reopens, the Government has stressed the importance of minimising the risk of transmission which is why “close proximity” venues such as nightclubs, soft-play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools, water parks, bowling alleys and spas will need to remain closed for now. The Government is continuing to work with these sectors to establish taskforces to help them to become COVID Secure and reopen as soon as possible.

While the infection rate continues to fall, the Prime Minister has been clear that the public must continue to follow social distancing guidelines to keep coronavirus under control. The Government will keep all measures under constant review and will not hesitate to apply the handbrake, or reverse measures, should the virus begin to run out of control.

Rugby market to return as partners prepare to reopen town centre safely

Rugby Borough Council is working with partners including Rugby First, the company running the town centre Business Improvement District, to make sure that the town centre is ready to reopen as lockdown restrictions are eased.

With open air retail able to restart from 1 June if they can do so safely, the partners have confirmed that Rugby’s market will reopen this Friday, 5 June.

The partners are working with market traders to make sure that they have the necessary safety measures in place. And, with all retail able to reopen from 15 June provided that Government restrictions are eased as expected, work is well underway to make sure that businesses and open spaces are ready.

Also involved are the county council’s highways team, which is looking at proposals for changes to the highway network, and Rugby Central, the town centre shopping centre.

Rugby First’s Bid Rangers and Rugby Borough Council’s Community Wardens are preparing to mark out social distancing guides on pavements and pedestrianised areas, with regular reminders to keep two metres apart. These measures will particularly focus on bus stops, taxi ranks, the market place and areas where queues may be expected to form.

The leaders of Rugby Borough Council’s political groups have welcomed the plans.

Cllr Seb Lowe, leader of the Conservative group and Leader of Rugby Borough Council, Cllr Maggie O’Rourke, leader of the Labour group, and Cllr Jerry Roodhouse, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said: “Our over-riding objective is to make sure that our residents and businesses feel safe to return to trade.

“With the market able to return this weekend the town centre is taking its first steps to reopen. It is down to each and every one of us to comply with social distancing guidelines and respect the measures that are in place, but with practical changes on the ground it will be easier to trade and shop safely.

“We hope that the steps we are taking now will both help traders to prepare and encourage residents to return to the town centre and support our local businesses.”

Alistair George, Chair of Rugby First, said: “The town centre business owners that I have spoken to over the last few weeks, have been ensuring that the re-opening of their premises is achieved in the safest way possible. The guidelines for how different types of organisations will achieve this varies, but everyone has been very positive and keen to re-energise their business, whilst being ‘Covid Secure’. While many premises have been vacated during lockdown, Rugby First has continued to ensure that there has been a presence in the town centre, monitoring premises and ensuring everyone’s safety and security, while also keeping the town centre clean.

“The team at Rugby First have also been able to assist many businesses with access to grant funding and providing contact information for a variety of bespoke requirements, adapting to the needs of the members at a very difficult time. As part of the gradual easing of lockdown, there are steps that need to be taken to ensure that the town centre is a safe and inviting place for our customers and clients to return to as well, and I’m pleased that Rugby Borough Council and Warwickshire County Council have been able to join with Rugby First to achieve this.

To help businesses comply with the government’s requirements that they have a risk assessment showing that they are “Covid secure” Rugby Borough Council and Rugby First are providing checklist and guidance documents that traders can complete and make available on request.

Shopkeepers can download the checklist at www.rugby.gov.uk/coronavirus.

Prime Minister sets out timeline for retail to reopen in June

Thousands of high street shops, department stores and shopping centres across England are set to reopen next month once they are COVID-19 secure and can show customers will be kept safe, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed.

  • Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from 1 June, as soon as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers. As with garden centres, the risk of transmission of the virus is lower in these outdoor and more open spaces. Car showrooms often have significant outdoor space and it is generally easier to apply social distancing.
  • All other non-essential retail including shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, will be expected to be able to reopen from 15 June if the Government’s five tests are met and they follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines, giving them three weeks to prepare.

 

Reopening High Streets Safely Fund

The Reopening High Streets Safely Fund is providing £50 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to councils across England to support the safe reopening of high streets and other commercial areas.

This guidance provides details of the activities that can be supported through the Fund and an overview of how it will be administered, as well as key ERDF contractual requirements. View the launch of the Fund on the Government’s coronavirus hub pages.

Pre-opening measures for retailers

To help retailers safely approach re-opening to the public, new Government guidance has been published. From social distancing to hygiene can be accessed here 

The risks of the spread of Covid-19 within your business must be managed. Business owners will need to put in place safe systems of work to make sure that you protect yourself, your employees, contractors and members of the public from Covid-19. If you have more than five employees, you will need to share the results of your risk assessment with your employees. Advice on how to carry out a risk assessment can be found on HSE website

Self-employed Income Support Scheme

Self-employed individuals, or members of partnerships whose business has been adversely affected by coronavirus, will be able to apply for a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits.

Payments will be paid in a single instalment covering three months and capped at £7,500 and are expected to land in bank accounts within six working days of each claim. Check if you are eligible to claim here

Taskforces created for safe re-openings

Five ministerial-led taskforces have been established in a bid to develop plans for how and when closed sectors can reopen safely.

The groups will look at pubs and restaurants; non-essential retail; recreation and leisure, including tourism, culture and heritage, libraries, entertainment and sport; places of worship, including faith, community and public buildings; and international aviation.

Each taskforce will work across government and engage with key stakeholders in public health, industry, trade unions and devolved administrations to ensure that Covid-19 secure guidelines are developed in line with the phased approach and public health directions. They will also look to agree and ensure alignment of all relevant sectoral guidance and provide stakeholders with direct access to ministers to shape the guidance.

Top-up to local business grant funds scheme

A discretionary fund has been set up to accommodate certain small businesses previously outside the scope of the business grant funds scheme.

This additional fund is aimed at small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs. The Government is asking local authorities to 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.

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 Coronavirus restriction measures. Further guidance for local authorities will be set out shortly.

PPE resource for Rugby retailers

Rugby First has compiled a list of PPE suppliers to support local businesses who are preparing to reopen once COVID-19 emergency measures end.

Though detailed government guidance is not yet available, some industry groups have issued preliminary guidance. Generally, this suggests the use of hand sanitiser, counter screens, floor marking and various types of PPE (personal protective equipment).

The suppliers we have spoken to have advised that the details and prices listed are subject to availability and may change, and whilst they have stock now, they are anticipating a surge in demand.

If you would like a copy of our list, please email ryan@rugbyfirst.org.

COVID-19 mobile testing centre

Rugby Borough Council has opened a mobile testing site in the Newbold Road car park. It is open from 10.30am – 3.30pm. Essential workers, people over 65 and their families can book a test if they have coronavirus symptoms via the Government’s website https://www.gov.uk/apply-coronavirus-test

£6M funding boost for Business Improvement Districts

High Streets Minister Simon Clarke MP has announced £6.1M of funding to see Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) through the uncertainty of coronavirus. This will enable BIDs to continue to support England’s town centres and high streets.

Mr Clarke said: “BIDs are uniquely placed and have a proven track record of success in supporting local businesses, empowering communities, championing our town centres and driving forward the renewal of our high streets.

“It’s only right that during these unprecedented times we give them all the necessary support they need to continue operating, so that they can carry on their vital work now and crucially when we move into the recovery phase from the current crisis.”

 

New £200,000 Community Initiatives Fund launched

On Monday 4 May, a new Community Initiative Fund will be launched by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner. A total of £200,000 will be available over the next six months, to help fund voluntary and community activity which helps and supports people having to self-isolate under COVID-19 restrictions.

Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner Waheed Saleem said: “This really is a fantastic way to support, in a practical way all those people who are rapidly responding and organising in new ways to connect with each other within their communities. This includes online, providing practical and spiritual support, and using local supply chains.

The deadline for applications is 1 June and a form can be downloaded from their website

Bounce Back loans announced for small businesses

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled another coronavirus bailout measure. Small businesses impacted by lockdown will get Bounce Back loans with 100% government guarantees. The maximum amount is a quarter of annual turnover to a limit of £50,000. The Treasury will cover the interest payments on debt for the next 12 months

New measures on business rent collection

The Business Secretary has announced new temporary measures to protect the UK high street from aggressive rent collection and closure during the lockdown.

Statutory demands and winding up petitions issued to commercial tenants will be temporarily voided and changes to be made to the use of Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery, building on measures already introduced in the Coronavirus Act. Landlords and investors are asked to work collaboratively with high street businesses unable to pay their bills during COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation will be in place until 30 June.

PPE production

The West Midlands Combined Authority has created a hub to facilitate the procurement, supply and distribution of additional PPE in our region.  They are asking companies who can help to get in touch via their website. Rugby company Curtains by Design is already helping the NHS by producing scrubs, wash bags and ear defenders for local hospitals with linen donated by Rugby School.

Rugby pharmacies

They are an essential retailer and here are the opening hours for some of our local pharmacies in Rugby town centre :

Boots, Rugby Central  Monday to Saturday 10am – 4.30pm (Closed 2.30 – 3.30pm).

Knights, Sheep Street Monday to Friday 9am – 6pm Saturday 9am – 1pm.

Lloyds, Clifton Road Monday to Friday 9.30 – 5.30 (Closed 1 – 2pm) Saturday 10am – 4.30pm.

Rowlands Pharmacy, Bennfield Road Monday to Friday 8.30am – 6pm Saturday 9am – 1pm.

Please observe the social distancing guidelines when waiting and accessing the stores.

Arts Council England £20M fund

Arts Council England has made £20 million available to individuals working in the cultural sector, including artists, creative practitioners and freelancers. Grants of up to £2,500 are offered to creative practitioners whose main work is focused on these artforms and disciplines:

  • Music
  • Theatre
  • Dance
  • Visual Arts
  • Literature
  • Combined Arts
  • Museums practice
  • Libraries (activity that helps deliver the Universal Library Offers).

This work includes: choreographers, writers, translators, producers, editors, freelance educators in the disciplines and artforms we support, composers, directors, designers, artists, craft makers and curators.

Round one has now closed. Round two opens for applications on 16 April and applicants will need to register on Grantium by 27 April in order to make an application before the deadline of 30 April.

Prince’s Trust 18-30 funding

The Prince’s Trust and NatWest Enterprise Relief Fund will offer £5million worth of grants to 18 to 30-year olds across the UK who are self-employed and/or running their own business. In conjunction with cash grants, the initiative will offer one-to-one support and guidance to anyone who needs it and who may be worried about their future.

Grants can be used to maintain core business operations during the crisis, as well as meet any existing financial commitments, such as paying for essential equipment or settling invoices from suppliers. Additionally, grants will also support young people to diversify their business to respond to opportunities created by the crisis. In conjunction with grants, the initiative will offer one-to-one support and guidance to any applicants who need it.

Register your interest here 

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) extended

From today (Monday 6 April) CBILS has been significantly expanded along with changes to the scheme’s features and eligibility criteria. The changes mean even more smaller businesses across the UK impacted by the coronavirus crisis can access the funding they need.

Importantly, access to the scheme has been opened up to those smaller businesses who would have previously met the requirements for a commercial facility but would not have been eligible for CBILS. Insufficient security is no longer a condition to access the scheme.

More details are available at the British Business Bank’s website

Keeping your business safe

Even though the majority of businesses in Rugby town centre are closed, Rugby First is working closely with Rugby Police to ensure that your business property remains safe, with regular patrols and the 24 hour CCTV operation.

Business owners can help Rugby First and Rugby Police by ensuring that they have taken the following steps to prevent crime:

  • Remove window displays if practical
  • Keep valuable items securely stored out of sight
  • Remove cash from the premises and having clearly visible signs to reinforce this message
  • Check your CCTV system is working and that any images recorded would be identifiable
  • Keep lighting on in key areas
  • Make sure your premises are securely locked and that points of entry are secure.

If you have any queries or would like further advice, please contact the Rugby First Control Room.

£60,000 support available for local artists

The Coventry City of Culture Trust is investing in a fund to support individuals and organisations in the arts and cultural sector who are facing urgent pressures caused by loss of work due to coronavirus. The fund is being administered by the Heart of England Community Foundation and will offer grants of up to £1,000 for organisations and £500 for individuals working in the sector.

Martin Sutherland, Chief Executive of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “We recognise that, in our sector like so many others, it is causing hardship for both organisations and individuals across our region. The Coventry 2021 Coronavirus Resilience Fund will help to support some of those who are most in need in and working in the arts and culture sector in Coventry and Warwickshire.”

To apply for the fund go to the Heart of England’s website.

Essential shops

The Government’s list of shops that can stay open includes the following:-

Food shops

Pharmacies

Petrol stations

Bicycle repair shops

Hardware shops

Laundrettes

Car rental

Pet shops

Newsagents

Post offices

Banks

Off licenses

New business support website

A new resource for businesses, this site helps businesses find out how to access the Government support that has been made available, who is eligible, when the schemes open and how to apply all in one place.

Changes to Rugby First rangers and cleaning services

We are taking the COVID-19 outbreak very seriously and following best practice advice from the Government, NHS and Rugby Borough Council, therefore we have made a series of changes to our Rangers and Cleaning services so that we can continue to provide you with these amenities:

Rangers & Cleaners

Our rangers will continue to patrol the town centre and will respond and deal with issues. However, we have reduced the number of business visits and our rangers will not be carrying out instore patrols, to minimise the potential spread of the virus.

Our cleaning team will continue to keep the town centre clean but they will not be able to perform the business deep cleans and the five minute ‘hit squad’ times may be increased, depending on demand.

All of our teams who are out in the town centre are implementing enhanced hygiene measures and will be wearing disposable gloves.

If you would like a ranger or cleaner to attend your premises, please contact our Control Room.

Paper shredding

The shredding collection scheduled for Friday the 27th March is postponed. Any business that requires a collection can request one by contacting the office on 01788 572150.

We are closely monitoring the situation and will notify you of any further changes. In the meantime we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support during these difficult and trying times.

Useful Contacts

For up to date business and health advice, please see the following websites.

Rugby Borough Council support for businesses

Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce

Coventry & Warwickshire Growth Hub

Federation of Small Businesses

The Government

 

NHS 

HMRC helpline for businesses

HMRC has set up a phone helpline to support businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to Coronavirus. Callers will be able to discuss:

  • agreeing an instalment arrangement
  • suspending debt collection proceedings
  • cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately.

The helpline number is 0800 0159 559 – and is open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday 8am to 4pm.

Rugby Borough Council

The council has issued a statement  on their response to COVID-19 with measures to support the community, the vulnerable and local economy, which you can read in full on their website.

The council is preparing to administer small business grants on behalf of the Government and will publish further details when they are available.

All local authorities are working with the Coventry and Warwickshire Growth Hub, the Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses to provide responsive and effective support.

Business rates bills to reflect the new discounts and measures announced by the Chancellor are being updated and will be completed before  1 April.

Impact of COVID-19 on Rugby town centre events

In the light of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and latest government advice, Rugby First is postponing all of its planned events for the foreseeable future to protect local residents and visitors.  This will affect Bikefest (17 May) Rugby Festival of Culture (20 June) and Rugby Food and Drink Festival (27 June).

Rich Warren, operations director Rugby First said: “Rugby First is working closely with town centre businesses, venues, traders and entertainers to inform them of the changes and mitigate disruption as much as we can. With regards to the market, it will close on Monday 23rd March while we monitor the situation.

“We would like to reassure the town that our 24 hour CCTV operation will operate as normal and our team of Rangers and cleaners will be out in the town centre keeping it as clean and safe as we possibly can for people.”

Government Support

To try and help support businesses through the disruption caused by COVID-19, the Government has set out a package of temporary measures. The main features are :

  • A statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs
  • Business Rate Relief for a year for all companies in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors
  • Small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief
  • Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cash-flow pressures by seeking additional finance and
  • HMRC Time To Pay Scheme for freelancers and self-employed people
  • VAT deferral until 30 June 2020

Full details and criteria for these initiatives can be found on the Government’s website, which is updated daily.