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UPDATED INFORMATION - Hitchin Town Centre Businesses 14/4/2020
I’ve spent the last week answering questions from businesses and offering support and guidance on various aspects of the Governments business support plan. If you are struggle to find out what funds you might be eligible for, how to access support or need advice, please do get in touch with me any time by emailing tom.hardy@hitchinherts.com or call me on 07597380818. If you have missed any of my updates please follow this link where we have upload all the information https://www.hitchinherts.com/blog.php?id=64    
 
Continuing to trade
I appreciate that many of you have had to close your doors under the Governments order to protect customers and ensure social distancing is adhered to. I have however seen many businesses come up with innovative ways to continue trading and delivering products and food to local residents. Many businesses have stepped up and are offering new services such as knitting activity boxes, pre-mixed hair colouring, gelato and roast dinner deliveries. If you would like some guidance on promotions, setting up online shopping, how to deliver products safely or just need some ideas or advice on how you can adapt your business during these times, please get in touch.
 
If you are not on the list of businesses ordered to close and would like to safely open your doors and continue trading there are a number of steps you will be required to take. Please get in touch for further advice on the health and safety measures need to allow the public to enter your premises.   
 
Government Grants

North Herts District Council will be sending the majority of grants out this week. You must apply for the grant to receive payment. Businesses who do not apply and are eligible may not receive payment. Please follow this link to read the eligibility criteria and apply for the grant https://www.north-herts.gov.uk/home/emergency-planning/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-help-businesses  If you are unsure if you are eligible, please complete the application form and the Council will be in touch.
 
A message from Cllr Ian Albert Executive Member, Finance and IT - NHDC
1. As of Thursday, over 1,100 business grant applications had been received. The software to make payments to bank accounts had been installed. Over 800 applications had been put into the system for payment. It is hoped that first payments will be received early this week and most of the remainder by the weekend. If you have made an application but haven't received anything in your bank account by early next week, you can contact NHDC but please be as patient as possible.If you haven't made an application yet and are unsure whether you're entitled, explanatory information is to be found on NHDC website or give us a ring.

2. Software to support new business rate reliefs was received at the end of last week. This will be installed and tested. It is then planned to issue you with new bills, many zero rated, over the next fortnight. Direct Debits are not being taken.

Furlough Staff
As some of you are still trading or partly trading during this time, I wanted to make you aware of some recent information regarding furlough form the Government website. Any employees you place on furlough must be furloughed for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks. When they return to work, they must be taken off furlough. Employees can be furloughed multiple times, but each separate instance must be for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks.

Many of you have already furloughed your staff to allow access to the Governments job retention scheme. Through PAYE, HMRC will refund 80% of staff salaries up to £2500 per month. It is up to the employee whether they pay staff 80% of their salary and claim it all back or top it up by 20%. HMRC have yet to open the portal to allow claims to be processed. I would advise you contacting your accountant to ensure they are ready to claim as soon as the portal opens. Andrew Pearce from Bradshaw Johnson Chartered Accountants on Bancroft has kindly agreed to offer free impartial financial business advice on this process. Please email andrew.pearce@bjca.co.uk   

Hitchin Landlords
On Friday 10th April, Hitchin’s commercial landlords, Bim Afolami MP and myself discussed via conference call the impact that Covid-19 was having on businesses and in particular the effect this was on having on local businesses, their tenancies and on the landlords.
 
All parties conveyed to Bim the need for further clarification from the Government on guidelines and specific roles for landlords in this pandemic. Much of the discussion focused on the relationship between the landlord and their tenants with the landlords outlining the challenges they are facing in this crisis and the support they are providing to their tenants. There was an emphasis on the need for landlords and tenants to continue to have conversations and reach voluntary agreements for this period and beyond.
 
As there are a wide range of circumstances businesses are currently in, it’s advised that, if you are struggling or find you may be struggling to meet payments in the future, to get in touch with your landlord as soon as possible to explain your situation and discuss options.  

Free IT support
Mark at Idea Anvil on Bancroft have kindly offer local small businesses free IT support to help them through this challenging time. If there are any businesses or organisations in Hitchin that do not have any IT resource to support them during this disruption then within reason they are happy to provide that free of charge during these extraordinary times and until businesses get moving again on a more normal footing.
 
For example if businesses need help with;
 
  • remote support for their staff that are working from home, setting up email, printers, cloud services
  • they have a technical issue in the workplace,
  •  need technical advice on any aspect of IT systems or services,
  • or simply someone to bounce ideas off

If you want to discuss this at all please contact me – mark.scott@ideasanvil.com, Managing Director, Ideasanvil Ltd. - https://www.ideasanvil.com/  
 
Delivering products and food
If you are already set up for deliveries, please email tom.hardy@hitchinherts.com with the following information to be added to the business directory as a delivery businesses on the www.hitchinherts.com website and to promote you on our social media platforms.
 
  • Business name
  • Phone number
  • Type of food or product
  • Logistics of delivery

 
Local Business Vouchers
To try and ease cashflow challenges over the coming weeks, we are encouraging businesses to create and offer vouchers for residents to buy now and redeem later in the year. We have set up a voucher page on the www.hitchinherts.com website which we will promote on various social media platforms.
 
Please send us the following information to tom.hardy@hitchinherts.com         
 
  • What the voucher includes
  • Which business it is for
  • An image or company logo to accompany the listing
  • Contact details (website, phone number) for customers to call or purchase voucher.

If you don’t already have vouchers, we are also offering all businesses FREE voucher printing in the Information Office. Please email a PDF of your voucher and how many you want printed to tom.hardy@hitchinherts.com