January 26, 2021
Coronavirus Financial Support
The teams at Sedgemoor responsible for administering the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Business Support Grants have already paid out millions of pounds for the third national lockdown having simplified the process. Businesses that successfully applied for the support to cover the November lockdown last year have been contacted and unless their circumstances had changed, paid automatically. What is complicated is that different restrictions have applied at different times but the teams are able to work out what is due and pay accordingly. Businesses that think they should have heard from us should check their junk mail or contact us. The grants are all explained on the website and for those that need to apply again there is a new form.
Exceptions Grant Scheme
Exercising the discretion allowed by the Government for helping local businesses during the latest Coronavirus lockdown, Sedgemoor District Council has opened a scheme for some of those companies ineligible for its existing grants but important to our economy. The help is aimed at small and medium employers or SMEs, who operate their businesses from commercial premises such as shops, workshops, factories and warehouses and are not required to close by law.
To qualify, a business must employ at least five members of staff, including any furloughed or part-time and have suffered a significant loss of trade due to the national lockdown and previous recent local restrictions.
Doing Sedgemoor Proud
As you know, we love awards here at Sedgemoor and were delighted at the end of last year to sponsor one for Small Business of the Year at the Sedgemoor Business Excellence Awards – won by The Design Hive. Congratulations to all winners. We are pleased to see so many Sedgemoor based businesses in the running for prizes at the Somerset Business Awards Event on March 26, especially at a time when everyone is under so much pressure. There are 14 different award categories, including a new ‘one-off’ specifically for businesses who have responded effectively to COVID-19. These are inspiring events for staff and customers and worth considering.
Digital Boost for charities and SMEs
Have you heard about Digital Boost? It is a free-to-use platform that matches digital experts with micro and SME businesses and charities who need a bit of digital support. The request for help could be anything from understanding Google Analytics, creating a logo or online messaging. The support is delivered by matching the business with an expert volunteer. You might find this is just the kind of extra help you need at the moment or on the other hand, you might be able to volunteer as an expert. Either way, the site is worth a look. It was launched in response to the Coronavirus pandemic by a community of digital professionals who wanted to help organisations in need.
Have You Thought Export?
The Department for International Trade (DIT) has designed a programme for SMEs across all sectors to give them the confidence to sell abroad.
Export Academy will be delivered online during the pandemic and feature educational events, independent learning, networking and group mentoring.
To qualify businesses will need to have a turnover of under £500,000 and must be located in one of the three identified areas: North of England, Midlands or South West.
There is also the chance to find out more about the support that is available from DIT and its local team, including the chance to join future trade missions and access grants and funding.
Towards Greener Homes
With more and more of us working from home, now seems a good time to think about making our homes greener. There is government help out there for homeowners and landlords and also for contractors who wish to be certified to do the work. The Green Home Grant Scheme provides vouchers towards the cost of installing energy-efficient improvements. Meanwhile, The Green Register is offering 100 funded places to businesses wishing to undertake retrofit training, certify in PAS2030:19 and become Trustmark registered. These are essential requirements for contractors to access Green Homes Grant voucher scheme and ECO funded works. The work can be carried out during lockdowns.
Spotlight – Elements Boutique Spa
In this edition, we are pleased to shine our spotlight on a young business based in Middlezoy. Unable to open their spa or holiday cottages, they have been busy instead with a new initiative. If you would like us to feature your business and have a story to tell, please email us.
Elements Boutique Spa in Middlezoy launched a luxury, all-natural skincare and body range to the UK in September 2020 and has secured a 220-store listing with the wellness giant Holland and Barrett. Business owner Nick Ridgment said they had drawn inspiration from the resort’s natural surroundings in the Somerset Countryside, real spa experiences and guest feedback. “Elements Boutique Spa is a collection of beautifully thought out, carefully crafted, spa-inspired skin and body products”, he said. “We have used the herbs and flowers we’ve grown at the Spa as our inspiration and our Bath & Body collection draws on the Four Elements – Earth, Air, Fire and Water – ensuring each blend ignites the senses. We are delighted with the response from customers to our products and particularly now our spa is temporarily closed, it gives people the chance to enjoy an element of our spa at home.
Sedgemoor District Council supporting businesses during coronavirus pandemic
Visit our support pages dedicated to providing the latest business information and advice regarding Covid-19 (coronavirus).
Covid Business Support Grants
Many businesses across Sedgemoor are required to close during the latest National lockdown and many more are facing a severe reduction in their revenues because of the impact of the pandemic. The Government has allocated fresh finance to local authorities to pay out in support grants and Sedgemoor has already contacted the majority of those businesses it was able to assist last year to let them know that they will be making further payments to them. Since most eligible businesses will have their details on our systems already, they will not need to do anything unless their circumstances have changed. If you have not heard from us and think you should have done or if you have not applied before, please contact the team.
Support if you have to self isolate
People who have to self-isolate because they have tested positive for coronavirus, or have been in close contact with someone who has, may be able to claim £500 in support from the Council. To check eligibility, visit our website. You can only apply if you have registered with the Test and Trace Service. Our website has helpful advice on many aspects of the latest National lockdown and there is a single number for anyone in Somerset to use for questions on a range of issues. The Somerset Coronavirus Support Helpline number, 0300 790 6275, makes it easier to access any local authority help including emotional, financial, housing support and more during the current crisis. It is operating seven days a week, 8am to 6pm.
Changes to the Job Retention Scheme
The job retention or furlough scheme has helped pay the wages of many people who cannot work because of the pandemic. At the end of last year, the Chancellor announced it would continue in its present form until April 30 2021 with a few minor changes. Employees will continue to receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 and businesses will only be asked to cover National Insurance and employer pension contributions. Although not obliged to do so, employers can furlough people who have caring responsibilities.
New opportunities for local businesses
One consequence of our leaving the EU is that rules on how public bodies procure goods and services have changed. For contracts of or below a certain value, it will be possible for local authorities to be specific about the location of bidders for contracts and even the type of businesses that might apply. This is good news for a council like Sedgemoor which already leads the way on local labour agreements for major developments. It means that we should be able to consider more local, smaller businesses for work and suppliers than we could in the past.
External funding opportunities
A national emergency loan fund for social enterprises and charities is inviting applications until January 31. Social-sector organisations working to improve people’s lives that are facing problems because the pandemic has reduced usual income streams can use free loans as working capital until normal business can resume.
There is also a fund for cultural and heritage organisations offering rescue packages. The National Lottery Heritage Fund is distributing £36m of this government funding with grants of between £10,000 and £3m but the deadline is January 26.
Working during the pandemic
At the start of the New Year, Sedgemoor was recording one of the highest numbers of new Covid-19 positive tests in the Region. With the country once again in a National lockdown, people have been urged to work from home if they can. We appreciate that this is not always possible.
For employers and employees who cannot be home-based we have found some helpful advice on reducing the chances of the disease spreading through the air in enclosed spaces.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has detailed guidance for employers on its website to help them make workplaces Covid-secure and to reduce the spread of the virus.
Spotlight – Offsite Solutions
First of our Sedgemoor businesses to feature in the Spotlight this year is Offsite Solutions of Highbridge. If you would like us to feature your business and have a story to tell, please email us.
Offsite Solutions is the UK’s leading bathroom pod manufacturer and at the end of last year it announced a 73% increase in pre-tax profits. These results have put the company in a stronger position to minimise the effects of the pandemic during which it has been able to keep its factories open with Covid-secure processes and procedures in place. Enquiries remain at a high level and growing. Commenting on the results and outlook, MD James Stephens, said: “More contractors and developers are now recognising that it is much easier to meet social distancing requirements in a carefully controlled factory environment than on a building site, particularly for work in confined spaces such as bathrooms. We continue to innovate and develop new products, such as our enhanced GRP pods which are generating significant interest in the build-to-rent market. In the past year we have maintained considerable activity in the student accommodation and build-to-rent sectors. We are also receiving more enquiries for bathroom pods for hotel and senior living projects. This is a very positive platform for our strategic growth.”
Sedgemoor District Council supporting businesses during coronavirus pandemic
Visit our support pages dedicated to providing latest business information and advice regarding Covid-19 (coronavirus).