Oxford City Council calls on Government to support businesses that are missing out on funding relief

Published: Friday, 3rd April 2020

Oxford City Council is calling on the Government to support businesses that are not yet covered by coronavirus relief funding, and to work with banks and insurers to provide more financial aid.

The City Council wrote to business owners in the city two weeks ago (19/3) to offer support and ask them for insight into the challenges that they are facing during the coronavirus outbreak.

Since then, the City Council has received more than 300 enquiries from Oxford businesses via the survey, by email or by phone – with more coming in each day.

The key ongoing issues that have been raised by businesses in the city include:

  • Categories of business that are not yet receiving support, including:
    • Micro (often one to two person) limited companies that are effectively self-employed but will see very limited benefits from available schemes
    • Serviced office tenants who pay an all-inclusive fee and so do not qualify as rate payers for business rate reliefs or grants.
  • Insurance companies stating that coronavirus is not covered by policies
  • Banks having conditions on access to Government-backed funding that mean certain businesses do not qualify or cannot afford to take on a loan

Comments have included:

  • “Insurers are refusing to cover business interruption (which I have paid extra for) as it doesn't specifically mention Covid-19 virus!”
  • “Our insurers are refusing to pay any compensation for this disruption despite this being clearly a contagious disease.”
  • “The bank and the insurance company are not helping.”
  • "I thought you might be interested in seeing the following email that we have received from our bank with regard to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. If these are the terms under which this scheme is intended to operate, I very much fear for the future of many businesses in the Oxford area and across the country!!”
  • “I am very concerned about my position and how I may not get sufficient help, as the only director and employee of my Limited Company.”
  • “I have an office for my business, however, I do not pay rates as these are included in my rent payable. I therefore cannot access the £10,000 grant which would be a lifesaver!”

The Government has announced a series of grants, loans and rate relief for businesses across the UK over recent weeks.

Although Oxford businesses can now access all the grants and rate relief that the City Council has been given permission to facilitate, some Government- and bank-facilitated support will not be available until June.

Other issues that businesses have raised via the City Council survey responses include:

  • Further extending business rate relief and access to the business grants
  • More testing “so we know when it’s safe for staff to return to work”
  • Asking merchant services suppliers to reduce charges on payment machines
  • Raising the savings threshold which limits qualification for Universal Credit
  • Raising Statutory Sick Pay levels
  • Ensuring internet services are protected with so much extra demand from home working

“While the range and scale of Government business support announcements have been widely welcomed, we’re still getting too many Oxford businesses contacting our teams with concerns that there’s no support available to them at all, or that they’re unable to access what’s been announced.

“We need an urgent and ongoing review of those categories of business that are missing out so that we can get help to them.

“Improvements to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan are a positive sign that more businesses will get the funds they need to maintain cash flow and preserve jobs through this unprecedented event. Yet, the measures announced will only make a difference if businesses can access this support simply and quickly. It would also greatly help if the Government and the banks could work more closely together to get these funds flowing to business urgently.

“In addition, further clarity on the way insurance firms should treat claims would be a huge help.”

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council