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All About Hitchin

COVID-19 BUSINESS SUPPORT

Posted: Thursday 21st May 2020
UPDATED INFORMATION Reopening Plan and Business Support 20/05/20
As some businesses are looking towards a June reopening and how to safely allow customers back into their premises, we have been working hard to ensure you all have access to PPE equipment and the town is as safe as possible for the public. I have completed a circulated the Hitchin Reopening plan which details the activities we will be delivering in the town centre, 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 

New Discretionary Business Grant Scheme:
North Herts District Council have now received the full guidance from Government on the new discretionary scheme and, most importantly, how much money they are able to spend on it. They are developing a policy and application form which should be live from Monday 1st June. This funding is only available for businesses who were not eligible for the original Government grant. I will send you all more information on this as soon as it comes out.

Hitchin Basket Website
It is likely that from 1st June shops will be able to reopen in the town centre. Although they will reopen, many local businesses will still rely on online sales to survive. We are therefore launching a new website focusing on businesses that have an online offer. Customers will be able to search for products using keys words or look up businesses by name. They will then be directed to a profile detailing the offer and a link to their website. Once the website is ready, I will send you all the submission form.  
 
Road Closures
I have been liaising with Hertfordshire Highway and North Herts Council on temporary road closures in the town centre to allow enough space for people to queue outside shops as well as continuing social distancing while travelling through the town. It is likely that Bucklersbury, Sun Street, Market Place and High Street will be closed for 7 days per week between 10am and 4pm. More information on timings, logistics and start dates will be out shortly. These closures are likely to last for up to 6 months and will be subject to changing.
 
Cardboard Collections
Hitchin BIDs free cardboard collections will restart from Monday 1st June. As many businesses will have different opening times and varying amounts of cardboard, please get in in touch with rangers@hitchinherts.com  to confirm you would like a collection. Although our Recycling Rangers will be wearing protective equipment, cardboard will need to be placed outside your premises for collection on the day. Cardboard not left outside for collection may not be picked up. Please bear with us while we deal with the backlog of cardboard from businesses who have remained open during the lockdown.  

Business reopening packs
We have bulk purchased PPE equipment to ensure businesses looking to reopen can access products at a significantly discounted price. We will be offering reopening packs for shops which will include a poster, floor stickers, wipes, hand sanitiser and face masks. We are waiting on some additional stock to arrive so should have the packs and a cost ready in the coming days. As well as this we are placing hand sanitiser stands around the town and directional arrows to encourage better footfall flow. 


 





 
 
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Posted: Thursday 14th May 2020
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 
 
 


     
       

 
 
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Posted: Thursday 7th May 2020
HITCHIN TOWN CENTRE RECOVERY 6/5/20
I want to start by thanking all those who have paid their BID levy so far in these difficult times and please be assured that every penny will count towards reinvigorating and rebooting the town through the Hitchin recovery plan. As we are all waiting for the Government update on Sunday around the potential easing of the lockdown, I wanted to update you on the various project Hitchin BID is working on to ensure we are ready for the customers to return. 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 
 
Your feedback
Although we are all awaiting guidance form Central Government on the short and long term plan to ease restriction, we are starting work on a recovery strategy. There are a number of projects and activities being discussed and ways we can best use the BID levy to reboot the town and benefit the most businesses. If you have any ideas you would like to add to these discussions, please email me tom.hardy@hitchinherts.com   
 
Businesses Operating in Hitchin
I have spent a considerable amount of time collating a list of the retail, food, banks and pharmacies still operating in the town by offering deliveries, collection or open for walk ins. This list is now live on www.hitchinherts.com and has been circulated on social media. I will be updating and resending this list out weekly to ensure businesses that have decided to reopen are included. To view the list please Click Here

Shop Safe Scheme
We are expecting a number of businesses to reopen over the coming weeks and are mindful that many will need to stock up on hygiene equipment to ensure premises are as safe as possible for customers. We are looking at installing freestanding hand sanitiser stations in key areas around the town as well as bulk purchasing sanitation products to keep cost to a minimum for local businesses.
 
Deep cleaning businesses
I have received a list of services provided by a local company to ensure your premises is sanitised and is as safe as possible for customers to use. Below is a list of services, please let me know if you are interested in receiving more information.
 
  • Deep Clean Service: Desks, Worktops, Counters, Doors, Handles, Floors
  • Carpet Cleaning using ‘Envirosafe’- Virus and Bacteria Cleaning detergent to Log Kill 6  Product passed an approved to European Standards EN1276, EN14476, EN1650
  • Hard Floor Cleaning (Ceramic, Porcelain & Natural Stone cleaning)
  • Atmospheric Sanitiser & Deodoriser to Log Kill 6 up to an area of 25 SQM

Greater Flexibility for Councils to Support Small Businesses
The Treasury have confirmed that councils will now be able to use excess grant funding to support additional local businesses. Over the past month Bim Afolami MP has been contacted by constituents with businesses in a whole range of industries who have not thus far been covered by many of the government’s extensive financial support packages. He developed a way in which local authorities could meet this gap, to help out local businesses who are falling between the cracks of the government’s schemes of support. Bim has worked very hard with Government ministers and the Chancellor’s team to make this a reality. This new measure will allow councils to provide grants of up to £10,000 or £25,000 to support additional local businesses.       

 
 
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Posted: Wednesday 29th April 2020
UPDATED INFORMATION Hitchin Town Centre Businesses 29/4/20
As we move over the peak of this virus, I am starting work on a Hitchin town centre recovery strategy. Although the Government has yet to release information on how and when the restrictions will be lifted, there are lots of ideas and suggestions coming out to ensure we can help as many businesses as possible to get back up and running and continue to trade. There is a lot of speculation around how the Governments strategy will be laid out, I have held meetings with the MP and North Herts Council on the measures likely be to be put in place and how Hitchin BID and the council can work together to reboot the town and bring back consumer confidence. A Government plan is likely to be released in the coming weeks and Hitchin BID is working hard to be ready to support businesses and use the BID levy to reboot the town.

Keep Hitchin Moving
We are working on an information document to help highlight businesses offering ‘deliveries’, ‘click and collect’ and ‘open to the public’. This will be widely advertised on social media to inform people that they can still access food and products from their favourite town centre businesses. We are using information on websites and social media to create this document. If you have a specific 25 word description of the type of product and food you are offering, please email me on tom.hardy@hitchinherts.com 
 
Hitchin Recovery Strategy
Although we are all awaiting guidance form Central Government on the short and long term plan to ease restriction, we are starting work on a recovery strategy. There are a number of projects and activities being discussed and ways we can best use the BID levy to reboot the town and benefit the most businesses. If you have any ideas you would like to add to these discussion, please email me tom.hardy@hitchinherts.com 

Government Support Grants
North Herts Council have reviewed and paid out almost all grants to eligible businesses. They have taken every possible measure to ensure grant funding has been sent out to the correct businesses. If you have completed an application form and not yet received the funding, please get in touch with me. If you have not yet applied for your grant, please do so now. If you do not apply you may not receive your grant. Please follow this link to apply 
https://www.north-herts.gov.uk/home/emergency-planning/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-help-businesses

Government Furlough Scheme
Wages for furloughed employees are now being paid through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, just six working days after claims opened.

Don’t worry if you have already made a claim and not received payment yet – it takes six working days from when you claimed. Please don’t HMRC to chase payment as they won’t be able to update you before the six working days have ended. You don’t need to do anything to receive payment. It will automatically be sent to the bank account you nominated in your claim.

Please retain all records and calculations for your claims in case HMRC need to contact you about them in future, as they continue to check claims made through the scheme.

If you have not yet made a claim you can still claim online for a grant for 80% of your furloughed employees’ salaries, up to a maximum of £2,500 per employee, per month. You will receive the funds six working days after you claim, provided your claim matches records that HMRC hold for your PAYE scheme. Please read all the available guidance before you apply. To find this, go to GOV‌.UK and search for 'Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme'.

Stay vigilant about scams, which may mimic government messages such as 'Stay at home' and 'Stay home, stay safe', as a way of appearing authentic and unthreatening. Don’t give out private information or reply to text messages, and don’t download attachments or click on links in texts or emails you weren’t expecting.

If you have any questions on the furlough scheme or need some advice please get in contact with me tom.hardy@hitchinherts.com  
     
       

 
 
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