South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has warned that more must be done to help businesses to weather the current Covid-19 crisis.
The local MSP has urged the Scottish and UK Governments to do more to address some of the worrying loopholes which exist in the current package of support for businesses and workers.
For example, some business owners have said the weeks taken to access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme outlined last week would be too long for many businesses.
Also, measures announced to help the self-employed won’t help those who have become self-employed only recently.
The taxable grant will be based on the average monthly profits of a self-employed person over three years, so people will need to have filed a tax return to be eligible and prove they have lost profit because of coronavirus.
The self-employed could also face long waits for cash, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak saying HMRC expect people to be able to access the scheme “no later than from the beginning of June”.
A number of local businesses have also been in touch with the local MSP to point out that they miss out on grants because of the level of rateable value used to determine the grants.
As well as urging more action from the Government, Colin Smyth has written to both Chief Executive of Dumfries and Galloway Council Gavin Stevenson and Russel Griggs, chair of soon to be established economic development agency, South of Scotland Enterprise, to urge the Council and Agency to do all they can to support businesses now.
Colin Smyth said: “I am really worried that the current package of support for businesses just won’t be enough to scratch the surface of the economic tsunami they are currently suffering.
“Both the Scottish and UK Governments have put in place some welcome measures but we need more.
“In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been inundated with enquiries from concerned workers and business owners who fear that they won’t survive the currently economic disaster which has been brought about by Covid-19.
“Just one example is that those who have recently gone self-employed won’t receive any support, which is really concerning.
“I have written to both Gavin Stevenson and Russel Griggs to urge the Council and Enterprise Agency to think about how they can help local businesses in the short term. Obviously we have to plan for the months ahead but many people are suffering now. This isn’t about economic recovery but survival for many businesses.
“We must do what we can to support our businesses here in Dumfries and Galloway and I will continue to push for every avenue to be explored on behalf of my constituents.”
Below is a summary of the announcements made to help businesses during the Covid-19 crisis:
· a full year’s 100% non-domestic rates relief for retail, hospitality and tourism
· £10,000 grants for small businesses in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief
· £25,000 grants for hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value of between £18,000 and £51,000
· 1.6% relief for all properties, effectively freezing the poundage rate next year
· urging local authorities to relax planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to operate temporarily as takeaways if they wish
· HMRC will reimburse 80% of workers wage costs, with a cap of £2,500 per worker per month
A business helpline number has been set up to get further information, the number is 0300 303 0660. The helpline will be open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm and callers should select option one to speak to the Covid-19 team.
In addition Dumfries and Galloway Council have established a dedicated helpline on 01387 260280 (Mon-Fri 9-5) and e-mail address : CV19EconRecov@dumgal.gov.uk to respond to issues from local businesses.
For specific advice on Non Domestic Rates reliefs businesses can e mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01387 260085.