Coronavirus: information and guidance for Oxford's businesses

Published: Thursday, 19th March 2020

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, wrote to all Oxford's businesses today with information and guidance about coronavirus.

Dear Sir/Madam, 

We are writing to all businesses in Oxford today with information and guidance about how to access national and local support for everyone impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19). 

We realise this is an extremely challenging and concerning time, and we are committed to doing what we can to support businesses and communities affected by the coronavirus outbreak. 

Oxford City Council has a dedicated team working to ensure that all the support for businesses announced in recent days can be quickly facilitated and made available to you and your employees. Our team is standing ready, and our goal is to ensure businesses in Oxford can be the first to access the new loans, grants and rate relief. 

We are also working closely with our partners, such as Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Experience Oxfordshire and other local councils, to ensure you have as much support as possible. 

The attached document contains a list of all the support that the Government has made available to businesses in recent days, how to access the support, and other information and guidance. 

While I am clear that the Government can, and should, do much more in this area around grants to businesses, if you are facing cash flow issues then I would encourage you to consider making use of these loans.  

To help us lobby the Government for further support for you and your businesses, to guide additional business support measures that we are developing, and so we can gain a clear understanding of the impact of coronavirus on businesses and jobs in Oxford, we have created a short survey.  

You can take part in the survey here: www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/oxford-city-businesses.

We will treat all responses in absolute confidence. 

This is a rapidly evolving situation. We will monitor all developments, and will do our best to keep you updated and provide you with the latest information on ways to access any available support. 

If you have any concerns or questions about any of the above, please contact us directly by emailing [email protected].

Yours sincerely, 

Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council

Support for businesses: Loans, grants and rate relief

The Government has announced a series of measures to support businesses manage their operations and trading during this public health emergency.

A statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs

The Government will bring forward legislation to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to coronavirus.

The eligibility criteria can be found on the Government’s support for businesses website.

New Government grants for small businesses

The Government has made available a cash grant of £10,000 for all businesses in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) or rural rate relief.

If your business is eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, we will contact you directly – you do not need to apply for the grant.

We are working on putting the processes in place as soon as possible to get this funding to businesses.

New Government loans

The Government has announced an initial £330 billion of loans for businesses.

That means any business who needs access to cash to pay their rent, staff salaries, suppliers, or purchase stock should be able to access a government-backed loan.

This support will be delivered through two main schemes:

  • To support liquidity amongst larger firms, a new lending facility has been agreed with the Governor of the Bank of England to provide low cost, easily accessible commercial finance
  • To support lending to small- and medium-sized businesses, the Government is extending the new Business Interruption Loan Scheme announced at the Budget last week. It will now provide loans of up to £5 million, with no interest due for the first six months

Retail, hospitality and leisure sectors

The Government has made a series of announcements to support the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors:

  • Every single shop, pub, theatre, music venue, restaurant – and any other business in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector – will pay no business rates for 12 months
  • For retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 to £51,000, a grant of £25,000 will be offered to support cash flow
  • Pubs, clubs, theatres and other retail, leisure and leisure venues which do have a policy that covers pandemics should be able to make an insurance claim against their policy

When will the loans, grants and rate relief be available?

The Government has said both loan schemes will be up and running by the start of next week (w/c 23 March).

We are seeking clarity from the Government about exactly when the rate relief and grants will be available, and how they will be administered.

However, as we are the Business Rate Collecting Authority, we have started putting the processes in place now and we stand ready to support these measures immediately.

Our aim is to ensure that Oxford’s businesses can access the support immediately, and we will be on-hand to help you through the process.

We will update you when we know more.

Support for charities

Charities that need an extension to their annual return deadline due to the coronavirus pandemic should contact the Charity Commission, the regulator has said. More information about this can be found on the Civil Society website.

We are also aware that many charities will not qualify for the Business Interruption Loan Scheme unless trade is over 50% of all revenue. We will lobby the Government for more charity-specific support – especially as the work of the charity sector at this time is more important than ever.

Planning rules for restaurants operating as takeaways

Planning rules are to be relaxed so that pubs, cafés and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Government will use Permitted Development Rights to allow the temporary change of use of a pub (A4) and a restaurant (A3) to a hot food takeaway for a period of up to 12 months.

Businesses will not need to apply for permission to make the change, but will need to tell the City Council when the new use begins and ends.

Current details are available on the Government’s website.

HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay Scheme.

If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

More support is coming

The Government said that specific packages for other businesses impacted by coronavirus will be announced in the coming days.

We are speaking with the Government and all relevant partners every day to find out what we can, and we will aim to keep you updated going forward.

For details of all Government support and advice for employees, employers and businesses – keep a regular eye on the official Government website.

Call the Government's Business Support Helpline for further business-specific support: 0300 456 3565.

You can also get up-to-date information about the coronavirus and support for businesses in Oxfordshire by visiting:

Other support

  • Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership offers a range of support for businesses. We are working closely with them, and other Oxfordshire local authorities, on ways to support the county’s businesses as we all navigate this difficult period
  • Enterprise Nation has collated key coronavirus resources, information and advice, following a Q&A session between experts and 630 SME business owners

Temporarily ceasing trading

If you make the decision to temporarily cease trading, please let your landlord know so they can help ensure you have all the appropriate health, safety and security measures in place.

If your landlord is Oxford City Council, please email: [email protected].

Contacting us

If you have any concerns or questions about any of the above, please contact us directly by emailing: [email protected].

If at all possible, please avoid visiting our Customer Service Centre in St Aldate’s, Oxford.