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Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, October 22

Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, October 22

Each week, our Public Policy team will be reporting on the latest weekly news in the evolving situation. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced new financial support for businesses

  • Sunak announced the extension of the grant system for businesses affected by tier 2 restrictions  – even if they are not forced to close by law –  and councils will be responsible for distributing them.
    • This will mean businesses will be eligible for cash grants of up to £2,100 a month, a move which will primarily benefit the hospitality, accommodation and leisure sector.
    • That is equivalent to 70% of the value of the grants for closed businesses in tier 3. These grants will be retrospective, with businesses in any area that has been under enhanced rests able to backdate claims to August.
    • Sunak also announced changes to the Job Support Scheme. There will be a reduction in the number of hours an employee needs to work to be eligible to enter the Job Support Scheme from 33% to 20% of their hours and the employer contribution to the hours not worked will reduce from 33% as originally planned to 5%. It will be available to businesses in throughout the UK.
    • The Government will increase its contributions for the self-employed, with a doubling of income support from 20% to 40% of people’s income. This increases the maximum grant to £3,750.

The Government has announced additional restrictions announced for parts of Northern England

  • South Yorkshire will move from tier 2 to tier 3 from 24 October. Meanwhile Greater Manchester will from 23 October. It comes after Lancashire was moved to tier 3 on 17 October.
    • People in these areas must not socialise with anybody they do not live with in any indoor setting, private gardens, or at most outdoor hospitality venues. All pubs and bars must close, unless they are serving substantial meals, and people should avoid travelling outside the area.
    • People must also not socialise in a group of more than 6 in an outdoor public space such as a park or beach, the countryside, a public garden or a sports venue.
    • Betting shops, adult gaming centres, casinos and soft play centres must close.
    • Gym classes will not be allowed and social distancing guidelines should be followed between people from different households (but gyms will remain open).
    • South Yorkshire will receive £41 million in extra support for business and Lancashire will receive £42 million.
    • Greater Manchester will receive £22 million for enforcement. However a financial package for additional support for businesses in Greater Manchester has not been confirmed.
    • It comes after negotiations between the Government and Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, collapsed over the size of financial package. This led to restrictions being imposed without Burnham’s support.
    • The Prime Minister has said that the £60 million offered to Greater Manchester was still on the table but that it would be negotiated through local councils within Greater Manchester rather than through the mayor.

Wales has become the second UK nation to impose a national lockdown

  • The Welsh Government has followed Northern Ireland in announcing a lockdown which will take place from 23 October at 6pm and end on 9 November.
  • Although shorter than the Northern Ireland lockdown the measures will be stricter and include:
    • The closure of all non-food retail, hospitality businesses, including cafes, restaurants and pubs, hairdressers and events and tourism businesses, such as hotels.
    • Residents of Wales must stay at home, except for exercise or necessary shopping, work from home wherever possible and must not meet other households either indoors or outdoors.
    • Businesses affected by these restrictions will be supported by an additional £300 million fund, including a £1,000 payment for every business covered by small business rate relief.
    • Following the end of the fire-break on 9 November, a new series of national rules will be brought forward, outlining how people can meet and how the public sector and businesses can operate in Wales.

Other news

  • The Treasury have confirmed that there will be a one-year Spending Review rather than a three-year one this year. A precise date hasn’t been confirmed but it will take place in the last weeks of November.
  • Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has extended Covid-19 restrictions for another week and announced that a new 5 tiered system will be introduced in Scotland. Details of the new system will be published on Friday and the measures will be implemented from 2 November.
  • Government figures have revealed that residential property transactions rose 21.3% in September following introduction of stamp duty holiday.
  • The Scottish Government has made a £30 million package of funding available to local authorities to support people facing financial hardship as a result of Covid-19, including money to provide free school meals over the school holidays.
  • New Nightingale Courts have opened in Bristol and Chester to tackle the impact of Covid-19 on the justice system. The opening of these temporary courts will free up rooms in nearby crown courts, allowing for more cases to be heard and delivering “quicker justice for victims”.
  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has announced that the Energy Price Cap will be extended until the end of 2021, protecting around 11 million UK households from being overcharged.
  • National League football clubs are to receive £10 million in support to keep them afloat through the pandemic. The funding comes from a partnership with The National Lottery and will benefit 66 clubs. National Lottery players will also gain a range of benefits including free ticket once stadia are safe to reopen, grassroots football opportunities and VIP experiences. The UK Government is now working to ensure similar initiatives for Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish football associations.
  • 588 more arts organisations receive £76 million in the latest Culture Recovery Fund grants. Those in receipt of this wave of funding include comedy clubs, circuses, festivals, regional theatres and local museums.
  • Ofgem has announced their plans to strengthen protections for vulnerable customers as of 15 December 2020. Ofgem will make it a licence requirement that customers in debt will be placed on a “realistic and appropriate repayment plan”. Suppliers will also be required to offer emergency credit to customers struggling to top up their prepayment meter such as those who are unable to do so because of mobility issues or because they are self-isolating.
  • The Northern Ireland Executive have announced a new financial support scheme for businesses subject to restrictions across Northern Ireland.  For every two weeks they are closed, small businesses will receive £1,600; medium businesses will receive £2,400; and large businesses will receive £3,200.
  • The Government has announced new laws which will enable more healthcare workers to administer vaccines and support the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to grant temporary authorisation, pending the granting of a license, for new vaccines and treatments.
  • The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has announced that the £500 million Film and TV Production Restart Scheme has officially opened for registrations. The scheme will allow productions to claim compensation for coronavirus-related losses including filming delays from illness amongst the cast and crew. The scheme was launched due to a lack of available Coronavirus-related insurance.
  • Italy, the Vatican City and San Marino have been cut from the travel corridor list. Travellers from the Greek island of Crete will no longer need to quarantine.
  • An extra £10m is being provided to help university students in Wales cope with the Covid-19 pandemic. The money will support increased support services for students – particularly those focused on mental health – as well as student hardship funds and food for students self-isolating. Some cash has been set aside for vulnerable students, those with disabilities or those with caring responsibilities.
  • The Welsh Government has brought the Wales and Borders rail franchise under public control. The new arrangements, which will begin rom February 2021, will see day-to-day rail services become the responsibility of a new publicly owned subsidiary of Transport for Wales, which includes a new partnership between Transport for Wales, Keolis and Amey.

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