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All About Hitchin
UPDATED INFORMATION - Reopening & Business Support 13/5/20
I held a meeting on Monday afternoon with a selection of  town centre businesses and senior NHDC and HCC Councillors. We discussed the projects and initiatives involved in assisting businesses and reopening the town centre in the safest possible way. Following my last 2 emails asking for additional ideas, I have taken into account all suggestions and have completed a Hitchin Town Centre Reopening Plan. Please CLICK HERE to view the document. 

As always, I am here to answer any questions you may have or put you in touch with the right organisation or person to ensure you get the help you need. Please get in touch with me anytime by calling 07597380818 or email me tom.hardy@hitchinherts.com  
 
Applications for Self-Employment Income Support Scheme 
From 8am this morning self-employed individuals or members of partnerships whose business has been adversely affected by coronavirus, they traded in the tax year 2019 to 2020, intend to continue trading, and they:
 
  • Earn at least half of their income through self-employment
  • Have trading profits of no more than £50,000 per year
  • Traded in the tax year 2018 to 2019 and submitted their Self Assessment tax return on or before 23 April 2020 for that year

HMRC calculate the amount to be paid to each eligible claimant based on an average of the tax returns for 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19.
Check if you are eligible for the scheme here.
Customers have been invited to claim their SEISS grant on a specified date, from 13 - 18 May. They won’t be able to apply before their claim date but can make a claim after that day.
People can check their date using HMRC’s online checker at any time.
https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/self-employment-support/enter-unique-taxpayer-reference 
 
Chancellor extends furlough scheme until October
The Chancellor has recently announced that the furlough scheme will be extended by a further four months with workers continuing to receive 80% of their current salary.


Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will continue until end of October
furloughed workers across UK will continue to receive 80% of their current salary, up to £2,500
new flexibility will be introduced from August to get employees back to work and boost economy

As the Government reopens the economy, there is a need to support people to get back to work. From the start of August, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff. The employer payments will substitute the contribution the government is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month. More information on employer contribution should be available in the coming weeks
 
The Governments recovery plan and reopening of businesses
The government has set out its plan to return life to as near normal as we can, as quickly and fairly as possible in order to safeguard livelihoods, but in a way that is safe and continues to protect our NHS. The strategy sets out a roadmap to easing existing measures in phases and as part of that. Please Click Here to view the plan.

To view all businesses that are ordered to remain closed and which industries can reopen please Click Here
 
A message from Councillor Ian Albert, NHDC Executive Member, Finance & IT:
Original Business ​Grant Scheme:
As of Monday morning, this week, North Herts Council had made over 1800 payments to local businesses, worth nearly £23 million. There were 25 outstanding to be processed. If you haven't yet made a claim for from the original grant scheme, or indeed haven't heard yet whether you are eligible, do contact NHDC. 
Details and application can be found here. https://www.north-herts.gov.uk/home/emergency-planning/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-help-businesses   
 
New Discretionary Business Grant Scheme:
When Keith Hoskins, Tom Hardy and I met Bim Afolami, we raised the problem of businesses that fell outside the current scheme. Keith and I also pointed out that there was likely to be an underspend on the allocation of money received from Government for grant payments. We suggested that one idea would be to utilise this money on a new discretionary scheme to help businesses that had fallen through the cracks. We were pleased that Bim had raised this idea with Government and had received a positive response. This is a great example of effective cross-party working in action! We are still waiting to get full guidance from Government on the new discretionary scheme and, most importantly, how much money we are able to spend on it. Once the guidance has been received, we will need to quickly develop a policy and announce how businesses can apply for it. Only businesses not eligible for the current scheme will be able to apply.
 
What we know so far:
The letter from the Secretary of State said the following:
"We are asking Local Authorities to prioritise the following types of businesses for grants from within this funding pot:
1. Small businesses in shared offices or other flexible workspaces. Examples could include units in industrial parks, science parks and incubators which do not have their own business rates assessment;
2. Regular market traders who do not have their own business rates assessment;
3. Bed & Breakfasts which pay Council Tax instead of business rates; and
4. Charity properties in receipt of charitable business rates relief which would otherwise have been eligible for Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rate Relief.
 The list set out above is not intended to be exhaustive, but is intended to guide Local Authorities as to the types of business that the Government considers should be a priority for the scheme. Authorities should determine for themselves whether particular situations not listed are broadly similar in nature to those above and, if so, whether they should be eligible for grants from this discretionary fund. The precise design of the discretionary fund will be up to each Local Authority.
We are setting some national criteria for the funds which must apply to all grants made from this Fund. These grants can only go to:        • Businesses with ongoing fixed building-related costs                • Businesses which can demonstrate that they have suffered a significant fall in income due to the Covid-19 crisis            • Business with fewer than 50 employees             • Businesses that were trading on 11th March. 
In addition, businesses which are eligible for the existing grant schemes or Self-employed Income Support Scheme are not eligible.
Grants are capped at £25,000. The next level of grants is £10,000. Local Authorities have discretion to make payments of any amount under £10,000. It will be for Local Authorities to adapt this approach to local circumstances. We would expect decisions on the appropriate level of funding to reflect the relative costs borne by businesses and to align with the Small Business Grants and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants Funds".
 
Conclusion:
Some of the above criteria may change when we see the final detail and we hope there will be some room for manoeuvre. We will make a further announcement on this as soon as possible over the next two or three weeks. 
 
I'm sorry not be more certain about the timing of this. But until we see the guidance and funding pot, it's difficult to tell you more precisely. But if you have any questions do feed them in via Tom Hardy or direct to me at ian.albert@north-herts.gov.uk