Welcome to the July 2020 'Need to Know' update. You'll find the latest key information on the Coronavirus crisis, support from Government, FSB advice that is available, and the latest developments
Social distancing rules begin to be relaxed
The Government has announced that social distancing rules will be eased in England on 4 July. Pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers will be allowed to reopen. People should still remain two metres apart where possible, but a “one metre plus” rule will be introduced. The Government has published full guidance on the changes.
The Scottish Government announced the easing of lockdown in Scotland from 29 June with non-essential shops, followed by outdoor hospitality on the 6th July, with restaurants and hairdressers following later in the month on the 25th. Full details can be found on the Scottish Government website: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-scotlands-route-map-indicative-dates-remainder-phase-2-early-phase-3/pages/2/
In Wales, People from two separate households will be able to join together to form one exclusive extended household the First Minister has announced.
It is intended the concept will be introduced in Wales from July 6 – the same day Ministers want to lift the stay local requirement – if cases of coronavirus continue to decline across the country.
Creating a single extended household will enable families to be reunited and will also help support working parents with informal childcare over the summer months as more businesses reopen their doors and return to formalised working arrangements.
But to help control the spread of coronavirus, only one exclusive extended household can be formed. Once a household decides which other household it wants to join with, this arrangement will be fixed for the foreseeable future.
FSB is providing guidance and help for businesses throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, including advice on financial assistance available, free Covid-19 signage packs to keep staff and customers safe, and a health and safety checklist. This can all be accessed at https://www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19.html
Government unveils £200 million package to help innovative businesses bounce back
Innovative ideas and projects led by companies recovering from the impact of coronavirus will not be lost, thanks to a new £200 million fund.
The government’s Sustainable Innovation Fund will be open to companies across all parts of the UK who need urgent financial support to keep their cutting-edge projects and ideas alive.
Funding totalling almost £200 million could go towards developing new technologies focused on making homes and offices more energy efficient to cut bills, creating ground-breaking medical technologies to treat infections and diseases, or reducing the carbon footprint of public transport in our towns and cities.
In a move to support people across the country to establish more ‘climate-positive’ behaviours, businesses and start-ups could also make use of the fund to develop smart sustainability-focused projects – from apps encouraging people to cut down their food waste to sustainable biodegradable packaging.
The Sustainable Innovation Fund will help power the UK’s economic recovery and develop new sustainable opportunities for businesses in any sector following the coronavirus pandemic, while helping the UK meet its ambitions to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.
This funding, delivered through Innovate UK, forms part of a wider £750 million package of grants and loans announced in April to support innovative firms. This sits alongside the new £500 million Future Fund, which provides match-funding to private investors, and has already received over 500 applications since its launch on 20 May.
Businesses can apply for support through the Sustainable Innovation Fund by visiting the Innovate UK website from Monday 29 June.
Ofgem publishes final proposals on raising standards for existing suppliers
Ofgem has published its final proposals for new ongoing requirements for suppliers to drive up customer service standards, reduce the risk of supplier failure and strengthen the safety net for consumers if a supplier fails.
Suppliers will have to demonstrate readiness for growth and ability to meet their regulatory obligations, which will help them continue supporting consumers throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
The proposals build on tighter new entry requirements for new suppliers to ensure consumers benefit from competition and innovation in the retail market.
Mary Starks, Executive Director of Consumers and Markets, said: “Energy suppliers have been at the core of the industry response to the COVID-19 crisis, protecting customers and the energy supply of those most in need.
“Now more than ever we need to ensure that suppliers are set up in the right way to treat customers fairly and meet the challenges of today’s energy system.
“These proposals will drive up suppliers’ customer service standards and lead to greater resilience in the sector, whilst reducing the risk and costs to consumers associated with supplier failure.”
Ofgem’s statutory consultation includes checks for growing suppliers that they are prepared to meet their financial obligations and able to effectively serve their customer base. If they do not demonstrate this, Ofgem could stop them from taking further customers on.
Ofgem also plans to introduce new licence requirements in the event of supplier failure to minimise the cost and disruption to the wider market. For example, when administrators take over failed suppliers, they would have to provide similar consumer protections around debt collection practices to former customers as active suppliers.
Suppliers would also be required to have plans in place to minimise the cost that is mutualised across other suppliers in the event that they fail. Ofgem will explore whether prescriptive requirements for this could also be appropriate.
You can read more about this here: https://bit.ly/2ZnVVub
Small and medium sized businesses in Wales set to benefit from new UK Government investment
A major new project in South Wales, led by Cardiff University, called CSconnected, received £44 million from the UK Government and industry.
The funding will help strengthen emerging industries in South Wales and deliver major technological advances in areas such as communications, 5G, autonomous vehicles and medical devices.
In collaboration with Cardiff and Swansea Universities, along with six leading welsh manufacturing companies, the project will help establish a cluster of manufacturing excellence, including a new skills academy to provide training in manufacturing and technology for small - medium businesses in the region.
Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said: “The £44 million investment in the Cardiff University led project will boost the incredible research that is already taking place in this field across south-east Wales.
“Investing in this emerging technology will enable us to create a lasting engineering and manufacturing legacy in Wales, generating high-skilled jobs and economic growth as we emerge from the coronavirus emergency.”
Read more here: https://bit.ly/2Vxto4b
New guidance for meat processing and food production plants in Wales
The guidance has been developed with Public Health Wales, Unions and other key agencies, including the Food Standards Agency and the Health and Safety Executive, following recent outbreaks of Coronavirus and incidents at three meat and food plants in Wales.
The outbreaks in North Wales, centred on the 2 Sisters plant in Llangefni and Rowan Foods, in Wrexham, are being closely monitored, including for any evidence of wider community transmission. All staff working at the plants are being tested and the close contacts of people who have tested positive are being identified and contacted by the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service.
The incident in South Wales, which involves more than 30 cases dating back to the end of March linked to Kepak Merthyr Tydfil, is being investigated.
The new guidance provides clear advice to the sector on a number of areas, including:
- procedures to manage suspected cases, including information about the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service
- workplace risk assessment
- communications with employees
- shared accommodation and transport to site
- entry to site and physical distancing onsite, including in communal areas
- food hygiene
The guidance also recommends that, wherever possible, employees should be organised into groups built around natural work teams. These groups should work together, take their breaks together, change clothes together, and, if relevant, they should travel to work together.
You can read more here: https://bit.ly/2ZofXoh