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.

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 daily 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.