Business Update – 4 August 2021

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward.

UK Opens Borders to Fully Vaccinated Travelers from the US and the EU

The UK eased its travel restrictions and opened borders to fully vaccinated travelers from the US and the European Union on Monday. Fully vaccinated travelers are now allowed to enter the country without self-isolating for up to 10 days.

British airlines and holiday companies are hoping for a late summer travel boom, as the pandemic banned most international travel and slashed profits significantly.

Clinical Trial to Investigate Best COVID-19 Vaccine Dose Interval for Pregnant Women

New government-funded clinical trial investigating the best gap between first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses for pregnant women was launched in England on 3 August.

The Preg-CoV study, backed by £7.5 million of government funding and led by St George’s, University of London, will provide vital clinical trial data on the immune response to vaccination at different dose intervals – either 4 to 6 weeks or 8 to 12 weeks.

Research shows pregnant women are more likely to become seriously ill from the coronavirus and 98% of those in hospital due to COVID-19 are unvaccinated. At present, almost 52,000 pregnant women in England have been vaccinated.

NIESR Forecast: UK Inflation to Hit 3.9% in Early 2022

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research forecasts that the UK consumer price inflation will reach 3.9% early next year— almost double the Bank of England’s target. However, this should fall back to 2% the year after if the central bank begins to increase interest rates.

After suffering its biggest economic slump in over 300 years in 2020 due to COVID-19, the UK’s economy has been recovering rapidly this year. Yet, a sharp surge in oil prices and bottlenecks in supply chains have pushed up inflation in Britain and most other Western economies.

Business Energy Comparison Site Offers UK Businesses Tangible Savings

A new website, Business Energy UK, has been launched by Chris Richards, founder of Utility Saving Expert, to help save business owners on gas and electricity bills. The site has the potential of saving small business owners up to £1,150 per year.

Aside from full business gas and electricity comparison deals and online commercial energy switching service, energy experts are available to help by phone on 0800 464 7677.

£1.1 Million of Government Funding to Support Long COVID-19 Rehabilitation Project

A new project known as LISTEN, which is led by a team from St George’s, University of London and Kingston University, and also involves Cardiff University, has been awarded with £1.1 million by the UK government. The funding will support a research project launched to help people with long COVID.

Through this project, researchers will develop personalised rehabilitation programmes and design a self-management intervention for patients with long COVID. Researchers will analyse the clinical effectiveness of the intervention, and how much it helps people cope and recover.

Funding Boost for Farmers to Reduce Pollution

Farmers across the country will be given additional support to tackle water and air pollution from their land. The Catchment Sensitive Farming programme, which is a partnership between Defra, Natural England and the Environment Agency, provides free 1-2-1 advice to farmers to help them reduce water and air pollution through proper management of manure and soils among other things.

The funding for the programme will now be almost doubled to cover 100% of England’s farmyard, with an additional £17m over the next three years. The new annual budget will be £30m, up from £16.6m in 2020 / 21.

New Strategy to Help Hospitality Venues Bounce Back

Business Minister Paul Scully launched a new strategy to ensure England’s pubs, bars, restaurants, and other hospitality venues will be able to build back after the pandemic and thrive long-term. The Hospitality Strategy which you can find here focuses on reopening, recovery, and resilience.

Subsidy Scheme to Support UK Jobs and Businesses

The UK-wide Subsidy Control Bill will provide quicker and more flexible support to UK businesses following Brexit. Previously, when the UK was a member of the EU, it followed the EU’s State aid regime which governed the awarding of grants, loans, and guarantees.

This is a lengthy bureaucratic process of being notified to and approved by the European Commission in advance. This delays these funds from being accessed by businesses in good time. However, with the new UK system, subsidies are permitted if they follow UK-wide principles.

These principles will allow authorities to award subsidies where they’re needed without so much red tape.

COVID Local Support Grant Extended

The government’s COVID Local Support Grant has been extended until September, bringing it in line with the end date for furlough and other COVID-related support. The funding is ring-fenced so that 80% is used to support families with bills for food, key utilities and other essentials. Across England, the total new funding is £160 million.

Cash Boost For Apprentices Launched

Employers of all sizes in England can now apply for additional funding to help them take on new apprentices. The boost to the apprenticeship incentive scheme has been available to claim from 1 June. Businesses can apply to claim £3000 for each new apprentice hired as a new employee from 1 April until 30 September.

Debt Respite Scheme ‘Breathing Space’

Under the debt respite scheme called Breathing Space, those facing financial difficulties will be given 60 days to get their finances back on track, with most interest and penalty charges frozen, and enforcement action halted.

Professional debt advice will also be provided. Recognising the link between debt problems and mental health issues, these protections will be available for those in mental health crisis treatment for the full duration of their crisis treatment plus another 30 days.

Please get in touch with us if you need any help with your cashflow. We are here to help.

‘Help to Build’ Scheme

The £150 million ‘Help to Build’ scheme will make it easier and more affordable for people to build their own homes. New homes can be made to order or built from scratch, and will benefit small building firms as part of the government’s Plan for Jobs.

Additional funding has been announced to help communities decide where they want new homes, shops, and offices to be built and what they should look like.

Recovery Loan Scheme Launched

The government has launched a new Recovery Loan Scheme to help companies access loans of £25,000 up to a maximum of £10 million. The loans will include 80% government guarantee and interest rate cap of 14.99%.

This is in addition to the extended furlough until 30 September and the New Restart Grants scheme.

Job Retention Scheme Extended Until End of September

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until 30 September 2021. It will remain unchanged until the end of June, and a phased reduction in the level of funding will be implemented from 1 July 2021.

Currently, employers can claim grants equal to 80% of a furloughed employee’s reference pay. Grants for each worker are capped at £2,500 per month.

For claims starting 1 July 2021, the grant will be reduced to 70% of the reference salary and capped at £2,187.50 per month. It will be further reduced to 60% of the reference salary with a cap of £1,875 starting 1 August 2021.

You can read more about it here.

SME Brexit Support Fund Launched

A £20 million SME Brexit Support Fund has been announced to help businesses adjust to new customs, rules of origin, and VAT rules when trading with the EU.

Traders will be able to apply for a grant of up to £2,000 to pay for practical support for importing and exporting. This fund will help businesses prepare for the implementation of import controls that will take effect from April and July.

More details can be found here.

Kickstart Scheme grant

  • Provides funding to create new job placements for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit
  • Covers 100% of the National Minimum Wage (or the National Living Wage) for 25 hours a week for a total of six months
  • Also covers National Insurance contributions
  • Employers can spread the start date of the job placements until the end of December 2021

More information can be found here.

Government to Boost Support for Northern Ireland Agri-Food Traders

Traders moving agri-food from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will benefit from increased government support until the end of 2023 through the Movement Assistance Scheme. Under this scheme, certain certification costs will be covered when moving agri-food products.

Aside from being extended to the end of December 2023, it will also be expanded to cover costs related to:

  • scrapies testing for sheep exports
  • sample testing and certification required for individual seed lots from 1 August
  • the Plant Health Exports Audited Trader Scheme (PHEATS)
  • exporters in Great Britain who move organics solely to Northern Ireland, and Northern Irish importers who face new costs to receive these goods from Great Britain

How Small Brands Can Compete with Major E-Commerce Companies

With advanced supply chain and shipping logistics capabilities, diverse offerings, and retail dominance, it can be overwhelming for small businesses to compete with major e-commerce companies.

However, instead of focusing on beating shipping speed, price points, or product offerings, small- and medium-sized e-commerce players can differentiate themselves by doing what the huge brands can’t. This Forbes article shares some ways smaller brands can compete with the big names.

  • Find your niche. Determine what your business excels at, and focus on that.
  • Make customer service king. Short wait times and knowledgeable people ready to help every time customers call elevate the customer experience.
  • Run lean operations. Ensure your operations run efficiently by establishing strong inventory management, demand forecasting, and enterprise resource planning and e-commerce platforms.

Want some expert advice on how to grow a profitable e-commerce business? Book a one-on-one consultation with us so we can discuss your specific situation.

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