Need To Know: Your Business Updates for March 2021

  • 10 Mar 2021

Welcome to the March 2021 'Need to Know' update. You'll find the latest key information on the high streets, connectivity, workplace testing, and business rates.

Jenrick confirms extension of pavement licences to help high streets recover

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced the extension of pavement licences in England for a further 12 months to help the hospitality industry recover once lockdown restrictions are lifted, subject to parliamentary approval.

Under measures already introduced, hospitality venues will be allowed to serve people outdoors from no earlier than 12 April. Extending provisions around pavement licences – which will be subject to parliamentary approval – will make it easier and cheaper for pubs, restaurants and cafes to serve people outside. 


The extension supports a series of measures introduced last year to help hospitality businesses recover, which will remain in place as restrictions start to ease. These include:

  1. Relaxation of planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to operate as takeaways.
  2. Greater flexibility for land to be used for temporary events, such as markets and motorsports.
  3. Planning freedoms to allow outdoor markets, marquees, pop-up car-boot sales or summer fairs without the need of a planning application.

Robert Jenrick said: “We’re all looking forward to seeing pubs, cafes and restaurants open again as we start to gear up for what should be a great British summer. Therefore, I’m delighted to announce an extension on temporary provisions for pavement licences for a further 12 months.

“It’s vital we work together to do everything we can to help these businesses prosper again. That is why I’ve written to councils calling on their support to use these measures in a pragmatic way to help support the high street, businesses and jobs, once restrictions allow them to do so."

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New scheme to increase connectivity in Scotland is unveiled

A new initiative intended to pave the way for greater 4G and 5G mobile connectivity across Scotland has been unveiled.

Communities and businesses will benefit from the launch of a new toolkit by the Infralink programme which will help identify sites on public buildings for masts and antennae - easing the process of reaching agreements to install them.


The toolkit aims to break down previous barriers to the rollout of 4G and 5G infrastructure, and is expected to lead to significantly faster deployment and increased investment in digital technology. It means Scotland will be the first part of the UK to have national pricing guidance for telecoms.

Scottish Government Connectivity Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: "Infralink has been a game-changing move for Scotland’s mobile connectivity ambitions and will accelerate our commitment to next-generation connectivity, as set out in our 5G strategy for Scotland.

“The changes in the way we use digital technology to stay connected over past twelve months have shown how vital reliable digital connectivity is in all of our lives.

"Continued investment in mobile infrastructure, and the tools to remove barriers and make collaboration straightforward for all parties involved is essential to Scotland’s social and economic recovery from the pandemic."

The new approach will apply to potential sites on land, building and streets, as well as 4G and 5G technology across the country.

The programme is led by the Scottish Futures Trust and is funded by The Scotland 5G Centre.

A connectivity ‘marketplace’ will also launch later this year allowing the public sector and other land and property owners to break down previous legal obstacles and ease the process of striking commercial agreements.

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Free rapid tests for all businesses in England for regular workplace testing

All businesses in England are now able to sign up to the government’s free COVID-19 workplace testing programme.

As part of the Government’s roadmap to cautiously lift restrictions, businesses of all sizes, including those with fewer than 50 employees, can now register to order free lateral flow tests for their employees.


Around 1 in 3 people with coronavirus don’t have symptoms, which means they could be spreading the virus in workplaces without knowing. Rapid testing detects cases quickly – in under 30 minutes – meaning positive cases can isolate immediately, breaking chains of transmission.

Regular testing could be the difference between a workplace being able to stay open and operational, or needing to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak. It will form a crucial part of the Government’s plan to ease restrictions as we get back to a more normal life.

So far over 3,500 businesses are signed up to offer workplace testing programmes, and over 14,000 have registered their interest in offering rapid testing, with many already rolling tests out.

Businesses have until 31 March to register for the government’s workplace testing scheme, which will remain free until the end of June. All those who can work from home should continue to do so.

Federation of Small Business Chairman Mike Cherry said: “A workplace testing infrastructure that works for businesses of all sizes as well as consumers is fundamental to bringing the coronavirus under control and ensuring that this current lockdown is the last. It’s great to see that the smallest businesses can now apply to set-up testing facilities on their premises.

“It’s vital that they are given all the support they need to do so successfully as they focus on staying afloat in extremely changing circumstances. We’d encourage all small firms that would benefit from a testing facility to apply as swiftly as they can.”


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Business rates holiday in Wales extended for 12 months

The rates holiday for the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors in Wales will be extended for a further 12 months, the Finance Minister Rebecca Evans has announced.

The £380m package provides retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with rateable values up to £500k, and charities in Wales with a straightforward year-long business rates holiday – providing a much-needed boost for small and medium sized businesses struggling to cope with the impacts of the pandemic.

This relief package, in combination with existing Small Business Rates Relief scheme ensures that more than 70,000 businesses will continue to pay no rates at all in 2021-22.

The Minister has also committed to providing businesses and charities in the leisure and hospitality sector with a rateable value of over £500k with 100% rates relief for 2021-22 too.

It was also confirmed that the Land Transaction Tax temporary reduction period will be extended by a further three months so that it will end on 30 June 2021.

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FSA launches new tool to help businesses assess food crime risks

Food businesses can use a new online tool to assess their vulnerability to food crime.

The Food Fraud Resilience Self-Assessment Tool guides food business owners and employees through a series of questions designed to help them identify the risk to their business from food crime, and outlines steps that they can take to mitigate this. Businesses can complete this anonymously or choose to share their details with the FSA to receive tailored advice and support.


The tool has been developed by the National Food Crime Unit (NFCU), a dedicated law enforcement function of the FSA. The Unit works with the food industry to identify threats and collaborates with partners to tackle them.

Darren Davies, Head of the FSA’s National Food Crime Unit, said: “The pandemic has been incredibly challenging for the food industry, but we know the damage the food crime can do both to a business’s reputation and to consumer health.

“While the UK has some of the safest and most authentic food in the world, it’s as important as ever for businesses to remain vigilant to the threat posed by criminals.

“Vulnerability can exist at any place along the route from farm through to fork so I would encourage businesses of all size across the industry to make use of this free tool.”

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