Chancellor announces new business support measures

The government has announced further support for businesses which are struggling through the coronavirus pandemic.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak launched a Winter Economy Plan in place of an Autumn Budget, with measures including protection for at-risk jobs and financial aid for the tourism and hospitality sector.

A new Job Support Scheme will be introduced from November 1 to protect viable jobs in businesses who are facing lower demand over the winter months due to the Coronavirus.

Employers will continue to pay the wages of staff for the hours they work, but for hours not worked, the government and their employer will each pay one-third of the worker’s equivalent salary. Employees who can only return to work on shorter time will still be paid two-thirds of the hours for those hours they cannot work.

The Self Employment Income Support Scheme Grant (SEISS) is to be extended. An initial taxable grant will be provided to those who are currently eligible for SEISS and are continuing to trade actively but face reduced demand due to COVID-19.

The new Job Support Scheme will help keep millions of people stay in viable jobs

There is to be an extension to the temporary 15% VAT cut for the tourism and hospitality sectors to the end of March next year, and the businesses who deferred their VAT bills can use the New Payment Scheme, which gives them the option to pay back in smaller instalments instead of a lump sum.

The government is to give Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) lenders the ability to extend the length of loans from a maximum of six years to 10 if it helps businesses to repay the loan. Interest-only periods of up to six months and payment holidays will also be available.

Jane Parry, managing director of PM+M, welcomed the announcement, saying: "The chancellor’s announcement around the new Job Support Scheme which will help keep millions of people stay in viable jobs on shorter hours but with their wages topped up by the government was hugely welcome. It is a natural extension of the Furlough Scheme and one that I am sure will be well received and a relief to millions of businesses and workers across the UK.

"The news that it is available to all SMEs is exactly the kind of clarity they need to weather the next six months and the expected continued downturn. Businesses can now plan for the future and keep the talents of their employees at the heart of their organisations.

I was also pleased to hear that he hadn’t forgotten about the self-employed, some of whom did fall through the cracks at the start of the crisis. The extension of the Self Employed Grant is great news and will, once again, give peace of mind to those working for themselves and reassurance that they are valued and supported.

"On the face of it, everything announced today has got to be applauded. However, the devil is in the detail so we need to wait for more information to be published so we fully understand the impact all of this will have."

Rebecca Bradshaw, director at Rotherham Taylor Limited, agreed. She said: "Whilst the government has published some detail on these new measures, we do not yet have all the ins and outs.

"We have found from previous schemes that there are often a lot of conditions and criteria that businesses and individuals need to fulfil when it comes to accessing financial support, so it is important that professional advice is sought."

Steve Fogg, chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: "The Job Retention Scheme has been a lifeline for both businesses and employees. However, the end of this and other schemes is quickly approaching, but the end of the economic impact unfortunately is not.

"During our conversations with the business community, there has been a real fear that the end of October, and the end of furlough, would mean that they would have no choice but to make valued staff redundant, as their order books simply hadn't returned to the levels that would allow them to bring staff back.

"The Job Support Scheme will, I hope, offer some employers a flexible alternative to retain their staff and protect those jobs which are still viable, but not currently at pre-Covid full-time levels. It is clear that whilst many of Lancashire's small and medium sized enterprises are starting to experience an upturn in businesses, they still require some form of support to enable them to operate in this extremely challenging climate.

"Many of Lancashire's businesses have demonstrated an extraordinary amount of resilience and an ability to find creative solutions during the pandemic. This is testament to Lancashire's innovative flair, agility and innate capability to solve problems. We still have a long way to go, but by working together, we will bounce-back better to enable the conditions for businesses to grow, create jobs, make world-class products and attract new businesses to the county."

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