Weekly Digest – 1 September 2021

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

Business Confidence at 4-Year High

UK business confidence has hit a four-year high, due to the growing optimism about the post-COVID recovery, according to Lloyds Bank. However, there are still some concerns about staff shortages, which could increase pay in the coming months.

The vaccine rollout, easing of lockdown restrictions, and changes to self-isolation rules are some of the factors that contributed to the positive outlook. The rebound in business sentiment in August was widespread across the UK, with 9 of 12 regions reporting improving confidence.

Lloyds Bank’s business barometer showed overall confidence climbed by six points to 36% in August– its highest level since April 2017.

Additional COVID-19 Support Provided to South West of England

Additional support to some local authorities in the South West of England has been deployed starting 27 August, and it will be in place for 5 weeks. Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases, extra support has been provided to Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Plymouth, and Torbay.

The package includes:

  • logistical support to maximise vaccine and testing uptake
  • further help for local public health campaigns
  • temporary use of face coverings in communal areas outside classrooms in secondary schools and colleges
  • increased surveillance using multiple methods to monitor the situation

You can check the full list of areas here.

£8.6 Billion for Affordable Homes

Funding amounting to £8.6 billion will be allocated to help thousands of people across the country onto the housing ladder. The Affordable Homes Programme funding will deliver around 119,000 homes, including 57,000 for ownership, 29,600 for social rent and 6,250 affordable rural homes.

Also, the cash injection could support up to 370,000 jobs across the country for homebuilders, SME developers, and wider businesses supporting the house building industry such as electricians and plumbers.

Free Antibody Testing Program for COVID-19 Positives

The UK government announced the rollout of a new nationwide antibody surveillance programme, which will make free home antibody tests available for up to 8,000 COVID-positive people a day.

Under the scheme, anyone over 18 years old can opt in to take part when booking a PCR COVID-19 test through the NHS Test and Trace system.

£160 Million Government Funding Boost for Energy Efficiency of Social Housing

The Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund has been launched to allocate grants to those managing social housing properties with energy performance certificate ratings of ‘D’ or below.

The scheme will support retrofitting at up to 38,000 properties in the first instance, out of the 1.6 million such properties in the UK.

According to the Department For Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which is overseeing the Fund, the £160 million pot announced is the first phase of the scheme and additional support will be announced in the future.

COVID-19 Self-Isolation Rules Ease for the Fully Vaccinated

Under new rules implemented from Monday, people in the UK who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer have to self-isolate for 10 days if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive. However, they are advised to take a PCR test.

The change in rules will help businesses struggling with labour shortages over the compulsory self-isolation requirement. If someone develops symptoms, the person will be required to self-isolate, get a PCR test, and stay in isolation until the test result comes back.

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.

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.

4 Strategies to Help Boost Sales

Small business owners know how challenging it is to close a sale. If you find yourself in a limbo– unwilling to give up on poor strategies or commit to potentially effective ones– try the following tactics shared in a Forbes article to improve your closing percentage.

  1. Provide leads with educational materials. It’s easy to close sales when customers truly understand a product or service.
  2. Use a multichannel approach. Don’t restrict yourself to a single sales channel– use social media, video and phone meetings, emails, and other ways to connect.
  3. Tailor your pitch better. Carefully target client needs and deliver a pitch that would appeal to them.
  4. Sell your solution—not the product. Clients want solutions to their problems. So focus on each client’s pain points and deliver a tailored pitch on how you could address those.

If your business is still struggling because of the pandemic, get in touch with our advisors today so we can work out a plan!

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Contact us if you have any questions or want to discuss the next steps for your business.