After a busy day for policy announcements following the Budget and Bank of England’s emergency cut in interest rates to 0.25%, the HTA’s Policy Executive, Thomas Rhys Dunn writes on the key announcements for the industry.
A wide package of measures has been unveiled to tackle coronavirus including Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) being made available to all individuals who are ill or need to self-isolate.
The Government will refund SSP of up to 14 days to small and medium size businesses when employees either fall ill or have to self-isolate.
Government will introduce a 100% discount for this year for retailers, which includes garden centres, with a rateable value of less than £51,000.
This is in addition to the already planned reduction to 50%.
Small businesses that qualify for Small Business Rates Relief (those with a rateable value of less than £12,000) will be eligible for a one-off grant of £3,000 to help with ongoing business costs.
The British Business Bank will introduce a temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme which will provide finance of up to £1.2 million in value through bank lending and overdrafts.
The Chancellor also announced those businesses that will struggle with their tax bill due to coronavirus will be able to apply for help via HMRC’s Time to Pay Service.
Alongside this HMRC have established a dedicated helpline for businesses that are concerned about being able to repay their tax. Businesses can call its dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.
Further information for members on coronavirus can be found on our website here.
Alongside the coronavirus business rates reduction for SME businesses, the Chancellor has also announced the long-awaited review of business rates.
The Treasury will be launching a consultation on the review shortly and will present the findings at the Autumn Budget 2020.
The HTA will be working closely with partner organisations over the coming months and we will be providing further information when the consultation has been launched.
National Minimum Wage
The Chancellor has announced that depending on economic circumstance, the Government will aim for National Minimum Wage (NMW) to reach two thirds of median earning by 2024.
Any further changes would be on top of the already announced increase in the NMW from April 2020. If any further changes are introduced, we will communicate this to members.
Following lobbying, the Chancellor has announced that Entrepreneurs Relief will not be scrapped but instead the Government will reduce the lifetime limit on gains eligible for relief from £10million to £1million in an individual’s lifetime.
An increase in fuel duty has been avoided but for some businesses red diesel is being abolished. Agriculture will be exempt from the ban, which we understand will include horticulture, with changes coming in for other businesses in two years time. The Government will be consulting with the affected sectors in the summer.
As we mentioned yesterday, the Chancellor has introduced a £640m “nature for climate” fund to plant 75,000 acres of trees a year by the end of the parliament, as well as restoring peatland.
This is welcome but also needs to come as a wider package of support to ensure that businesses have the incentives, flexibility, capability and skills needed to be able to meet the Government’s targets on tree planting.
As part of a wider package on infrastructure and regional development, the Chancellor has announced £5 billion of investment into the Shared Rural Network which will aim to improve mobile and broadband coverage for the hardest to reach areas.
The view from James Clark, Director of Policy and Communications at the Horticultural Trades Association
“Today’s budget provides support to small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), including in horticulture, to minimise the impact of coronavirus. Measures including assistance with Statutory Sick Pay for SMEs and the abolition of business rates for small businesses for 2020 are all helpful short term measures for our members in dealing with the immediate impact of coronavirus. The devil will be in the detail of how members will fully benefit.
“With regard to medium and longer term business support we welcome the long awaited review of business rates and we will ensure our members’ views are communicated to government when further detail is available.
“It is positive to hear that the Government is making further commitment to their environmental pledges with the announcement of plans to plant 30,000 hectares of trees over the next 5 years. Support for nurseries is critical to build and enhance UK production capabilities for plants as well as trees to help deliver the Government’s ambition to create a greener Britain.”
As always if you have any comments on today’s announcements please do let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thomas Rhys Dunn