A letter from Paul Cherpeau, CEO of Liverpool Chamber

Tue, March 24th, 2020

The letter is adressed to Chamber members discussing support available...

Dear all,

Liverpool Chamber of Commerce continues to collect and collate the latest information for businesses concerning responses to the Coronavirus. We are now in possession of updated details concerning some of the Government schemes available to businesses and have amassed market intelligence across our business base regarding available support.

All current information we have will be located on the Chamber website and broadcast across our social media channels (Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook).

SUPPORT SCHEMES AND ACCESS POINTS

• The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – Announced on Friday, this scheme will be overseen by HMRC. Details are being released over the coming days but the initial guidance is located here. The key information is:
o 80% of employment costs for employees deemed ‘furloughed’ will be met by the UK government as an alternative to staff being made redundant. This is up to a cap of £2,500 per month per employee.
o No work can be undertaken by the employee on behalf of the employer during the time they are designated.
o The employee is kept on the employer payroll rather than being laid off.
o Employers can choose to fund the difference between the 80% and full employment costs but they do not have to
o The scheme is intended to run for three months from 1st March 2020 (ie. Backdated claims can be made) and the scheme will extend beyond the initial three months if required.

Government published details here. Further details are due very shortly.

• Deferral of VAT payments for the coming three months will keep money in businesses to enable payments to people and suppliers. Our understanding is that HMRC will catch up with payments by the end of the financial year end – this is a deferral/holiday not a freebie. Details are here.

• CBILS (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme) - the British Business Bank have this morning released full details. Below is a summary of the key points:
o The government has confirmed that it will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs
o Available to UK-based businesses with annual turnover of up to £45m per year
o All 40+ accredited lenders will be ready to provide CBILS today.
o There will be an expedited process for overdrafts - no fees or interest 12 months. Some lenders will be available to provide this from today.
o Eligibility criteria widened – the aim to not turn down otherwise viable businesses which have been hit by the Coronavirus.
o No guarantee fee for SMEs to access the scheme.
o At the discretion of the lender, the scheme may be used for unsecured lending for facilities of £250,000 and under
o Finance terms are up to six years for term loans and asset finance facilities. For overdrafts and invoice finance facilities, terms will be up to three years.

Details of the scheme are here. The recommendation is you should talk to your bank or finance provider (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible and discuss your business plan with them. The list of providers is available on the British Business Bank website.


VOICE OF BUSINESS – CHAMBER OF COMMERCE COMMENT

You can read our Chamber of Commerce response to the Chancellor’s announcements on the Chamber website. Overall we are pleased with the level of intervention proposed amid such a crisis but we remain concerned about the speed of implementation of this scheme and the status upon self-employed individuals.

This week the British Chambers of Commerce will be lobbying government on both points to ensure further improvements are made to help businesses and the people who work within them.

HOW IS YOUR BUSINESS COPING?

Liverpool Chamber continues to request, receive and analyse the reports of businesses facing specific challenges. We continue to anonymously share case studies with our national association to aid lobbying efforts with government. We also share them with our combined and local authority when required. Please share any insight you can and, if you are accessing any of the official support above, let us know what the experience is like.

WHAT IS THE CHAMBER DOING?

The vast majority of Chamber staff are now working remotely. A small team including myself will operate from the main office to service documentation customers but the office will be closed to the public.

Contact membership@liverpoolchamber.org.uk or policy@liverpoolchamber.org.uk to share any insight you can (we can call you back).

Our business triage service will be accessible through social media and newsletters over the coming days. Zoom video conferences will be arranged when appropriate.

We will maintain our daily call with British Chambers of Commerce to maintain lobby pressure to government about what your experiences on the ground are. Please help us by contributing.

FURTHER UPDATES

We will send out alerts and notifications across our channels whenever appropriate. We are available via the usual addresses to respond to specific issues or queries you have.

Best wishes
Paul

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