Small Business Commissioner Supports NEN during Covid-19

Small Business Commissioner Supports NEN during Covid-19

In recent months, we’ve worked closely with Small Business Commissioner, Philip King; gaining his support for members of the NEN network and the small businesses they work with. Last week, we orchestrated a live platform for our members and their clients to have a direct and open dialogue with him.

The discussions centred on 5 primary topics:
• Small Business Rates Relief
• European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
• Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS)
• Prompt Payments
• Communication

Small Business Rates Relief grant – eligibility issues
The Small Business Rates relief grant has been announced by the Government; however there are a vast number of small businesses who will not be able to access it based on current eligibility requirements.

Some NEN members act as small business landlords and work with clients who utilise managed workspace.

For some properties, tenants have a direct relationship with the local authority as a ratepayer and manage their own business rates. Where this is the case, they will be eligible for the small business rate relief grant and will be contacted by their own local authority.

However, our members have identified a major concern from small businesses (eg. Hairdressers renting a chair, or those paying an ‘all in’ fee) that paying a proportion of business rates through their rent makes them ineligible for the current rate relief grant.

Philip King immediately took on board these issues and along with NEN passed details onto the policy team at the Treasury to ask them to investigate.

NEN Members also highlighted their concerns with gaining rental payments from their tenants during this time. Like many businesses, it is crucial to manage cash flow whilst also supporting the businesses NEN members represent. With many tenants facing multiplicity of finance issues, many of them have stated that rent isn’t their primary concern.

Philip King’s feedback was clear. It is essential that examples like this are brought to the attention of the policy team in government. They need to understand the direct risks and impact on small business.

NEN WILL CONTINUE TO LOBBY FOR CHANGES IN THE SMALL BUSINESS RATE RELIEF GRANT ELIGIBILITY AND REQUIREMENTS

ERDF – the impact of Covid-19
Many of the small business support programmes across the country are funded by the European Regional Development Fund. For many delivery partners, claims are only made quarterly in arrears whilst also requiring match funding from the businesses they support.

It has become even more crucial that it is understood that cash flow in supporting these projects is going to become harder in two particular areas:

• staff and their role
• the businesses being supported and the private sector match funding they are required to provide.

NEN HAS CONDUCTED A POLL WITH ITS MEMBERS TO UNDERSTAND HOW MANY ARE AFFECTED BY THESE ISSUES.

Gaining support for the Enterprise Investment scheme (EIS)
EIS was specifically set up by Government to help small businesses; providing funds from investors which EIS Managers can then fund to small businesses – usually very quickly. EIS is currently lobbying Government to increase the tax relief on EIS investments to 70% from the current 30%, with a view to attracting a further £200m of private investment into small businesses. A survey is running to add to the evidence.

Prompt payments are more important than ever
It is evident that payment terms are becoming extended by bigger businesses; having a direct impact on supply chains.

Philip King, dismayed to keep hearing this, has written an open letter to big business to make it very clear that they have a part to play in supporting the small business economy; asking them to do the right thing and help their smallest suppliers.

There’s a real need, and a clear challenge, in getting bigger businesses to realise the impact they have; and think about this in humanistic terms.

Philip reminded us all that when we come out of this, businesses will want to continue trading in a climate of trust.

Philip also directed us to the Public Procurement Notice – advice recently issued by the Cabinet Office outlining what the public sector should be doing to support their supply chain. Known by public sector bodies as PPN2/20, Philip’s recommendation was to quote this in any conversations, as public sector bodies know about this advice and should be acting on it.

Now’s the time to be visible, now’s the time to talk and support
Philip King was mindful in these uncertain times that small businesses need quick answers. We are very much operating in unchartered territory.

Communication with suppliers, landlords, tenants, those you pay and those who pay you is paramount. Don’t just do nothing and say nothing, if you have an issue raise it, we all need to help each other.

Want to hear the sessions in full? Each Q&A was recorded – and all are available to listen back to on our YouTube channel.

Our thanks to those NEN members who participated in the briefing sessions (and in many cases, alongside their small business clients):

Business for London
Enterprise Revolution
Enterprise Support Alliance
Hyndburn Enterprise Trust
MENTA
NBSL
PNE Group
Staffordshire Chambers
STANTA
Start Up Croydon
Yorkshire in Business

So what now……

NEN calls on #TeamNEN to help us build greater insights
NEN Members – if any of the key topics above resonate with you, please let us know. The picture is still emerging in each of these areas, and the more insights we can capture, the stronger the message can be to the Small Business Commissioner. Tell us how these issues are affecting you and your clients – and let us help lobby for change.

Do use the Small Commissioner’s office (and other sources)
Philip King has shown us how important protecting the small business community is to him and his colleagues at the Small Business Commissioner’s office. The free service exists to support the small business community – Philip and his team want to help, they are open to conversations with those that are struggling. Familiarising yourself with the work of the office is a top recommendation – as their driver to gain prompt payments for small businesses will affect so many of the NEN network’s small business clients. Visit the website to find out more and to access the contact details you need to get in touch.

Many of you are already familiar with the Coronavirus advice for businesses on Gov.uk. Philip King also reminded our Q&A participants that the Business Support helpline website is packed with granular detail for small businesses too – and on both sites, you can sign up for updates on the aspects that are important for you. Plus, for charities there’s a dedicated support resource too.

Yes, we know there’s an abundance of content out there, and it can be confusing or stressful to try to keep on top of everything. Our recommendation would be to keep close to just a few key reputable sources like those listed above.

Take each day as it comes
We are all in this together. There is no business or person that isn’t affected by the current situation. Advice and support is changing every day for all of us – but that’s a good thing, Government is listening to where small businesses are affected and they are continuing to refine their support offers. Small businesses can be resilient in tough times, and we know that everyone that works in enterprise support is driven to protect and represent their small business clients, where they can. Of course, this isn’t solely about finance. Wellbeing is hugely important too and the potential invisible impact, and this link is worth a look to access the very latest support.

NEN will continue to work with the Small Business Commissioner on the above issues, and the continuing challenging landscape for small businesses across the county. Watch Phillip King’s follow up message to the NEN network here.