As part of its written evidence to government on the top five interventions government can make to support businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ABM recommended funded access to mentors and coaches to help business owners with decision making, advice and mental well-being. 

The recommendation was one of a number made in a submission to government alongside the Guild of Entrepreneurs.
The response came following a meeting the ABM Executive Team had with civil servants in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in mid-March to discuss the impact of the pandemic on the business community. 

Following the meeting we called on ABM members to give us their views on what they believe the top five government interventions should be over the coming weeks and months ahead. We were pleased to work alongside the Guild of Entrepreneurs (who I am a member of) and the wider Livery Network in the City of London in this exercise and after just four working days received over 150 individual responses, culminating in nearly 30,000 words of suggestions.

The overwhelming theme was the concern, expressed by all the business owners, for their business, their staff and freelancers rather than for themselves. It is pretty obvious that different sectors will have differing priorities when it comes to the support they require from HMG, however there were a few headline themes that came out of the comments that were received: 

- Clarity and Precision at all times: If an announcement regarding business is made by the Prime Minister, Secretary of State or a Minister ensure it is supported and explained immediately in written words on gov.uk 

- Fast response times from HMRC to enquiries and requests for financial assistance and help. 

- Dedicated business support/advice service. The need for HMG to help business understand how long the disruption in trade is likely to last as they need to plan for this. 

- K.I.S.S – Keep it Simple Stupid! No jargon, just 100% useful support and advice at all times. The information on the following pages is a categorised summary of the detailed responses received as a result of your request for information. 

The responses fell into five categories 

1. Financial Support and Security
2. General Business Support
3. Relaxing and Creation of New “Legislation”
4. Business Continuity
5. Post COVID-19 

1. Financial Support and Security 

i. Solopreneurs, the self-employed, micro businesses and freelancers need to receive the same financial support offered to those directly employed. i.e. 80% of income guaranteed to a maximum of £2500.00 per month, averaged for last 3-year’s self assessment tax return. 

ii. Defer the payment by business of VAT, PAYE and NI to April 2021 and then have 12 months to pay. 

iii. Any Government supported loan, grant or other financial assistance facility made during this period (3 months) should be repaid over 24 to 36 months free of interest. 

iv. Order landlords to implement a minimum 3-month holiday period on all commercial rents, backdated to 1st March. 

v. Order banks to implement and immediate minimum 3-month holiday period on all commercial loan arrangements including development loans with limited roll-up of interest and extension to term. 

vi. In order to increase liquidity in the business sector, HMG to implement 7 to 14 day invoice payment scheme of suppliers invoices by central and local Government, all public services and all commercial organisations that continue to trade almost without restriction such as utilities, food retail, news, insurers, transport and logistics, healthcare etc. 

vii. Make it an offence to not pay within 28 days for any of the above organisations, with a financial penalty attached paid to the supplier of goods or services. 

viii. HMG (HMRC) to expediate payments for R&D tax credits, for both existing and new claims. 

ix. Enforce all commercial and public organisations to ensure immediate and or rapid payment of all outstanding invoices to MSME, self-employed and freelancers. 

x. Banks are still insisting on asset backed lending or personal guarantees to cover the 20% the Government is not guaranteeing for business interruption loans linked to requests for help in relation to COVID-19. Banks must be made by HMG to relax these criteria.

xi. State Aid exclusions currently prohibit Enterprise Investment Scheme backed companies from accessing grant/loan funding. 

xii. Increase tax relief for EIS investors to 80% for 6 months. 

xiii. Review the De Minimis requirement. The CBIL excludes companies that have received state aid beyond €200,000 over the last two fiscal years. 

xiv. Banks are currently refusing to lend to early stage businesses or start-ups, they will fold if financial assistance isn’t offered. CBIL proposal does not support them.

 xv. Extend tax relief to founders and directors of businesses so that they are further encouraged to invest in the businesses they own. Ensure Entrepreneurs relief is maintained.

 xvi. Allow deferred payment of all utility costs.

2. General Business Support 

i.  A one location business support and advice scheme in order for businesses to gain access to professional advice as well as HMG advice. LEP’s and Growth Hubs aren’t working. 

ii. Funded access to mentors and coaches to help business owners with decision making, advice and mental well-being. 

3. Relaxation and Creation of New ‘Legislation’ 

i. Transportation and air freight costs are rising exponentially, award a cap on the cost of such services. 

ii. Cancellation fees for cancelled or postponed commercial services and activities as a result of COVID-19 should be removed. 

iii. All creditor/debtor relationships to be protected with no enforcement action threatened or actioned, including HMRC and Companies House.

4. Business Continuity 

i. Ensure ‘vital’ maintenance workers whether self-employed or employed are able to continue their work. 

ii. HMG, LA’s, large businesses and organisations that continue to receive ‘normal’ turnover should, as much as possible, carry on business as normal, using and paying suppliers. 

iii. Ensure supply chains and logistic companies remain open that are critical to the delivery of goods and services, health, food, manufacturing, production and imports or materials.

 iv. HMG, LA’s and large businesses continue to award contracts for work. 

v. Offer employers access to COVID-19 testing kits for ‘essential’ workers. 

vi. Continuance of broadband services which are now dropping out in some rural areas. 

vii. Business property and asset and content insurance must be maintained while businesses are closed, maintaining cover and pay claims when they arise. 

5. Post COVID-19 

i. Order landlords to implement an automatic extension of commercial leases for up to 6months for each lease. 

ii. Review insurance sector as most are refusing claims, look at a joint (50/50) Government/Insurance Sector scheme for such situations to cover infrastructure costs. 

iii. Reduced level of Corporation Tax for those businesses that stop dividend payments and re-invest profit into the business. 

iv. A coordinated funded business support, advice and professional assistance programme to help businesses regain lost ground quickly. 

v. HMG, LA’s and large organisations award contracts to UK based businesses only (where capability exists) with emphasis on award to SME businesses, relaxing or reducing size limitations.

vi. Introduce a profit ‘expectability’ framework, whereby SME’s should look to make at least 20% net profit on all supplied goods and services and HMG, LA’s and large organisations are not allowed to push the SME below that. This will allow each SME business to build up cash reserves to support their businesses, their employees and themselves in the future.

vii. There will be a business lag post COVID-19. Many sectors have new work lead in periods of weeks if not months, which suggest many businesses won’t experience ‘normal’ levels of work for perhaps 3 to 6 months after the end of the crisis. Financial support may have to be maintained during this time. In some sectors such as construction or large manufacturing this could be 12-18 months. 

viii. Planning and licensing authority actioning and or decision making will have to be speeded up to facilitate a rapid recovery.

 ix. All credit rating agencies and or lending risk panels to review their criteria so as to not negatively influence future credit and or lending decisions as a result of poor financial performance during a statutory period of 12 months. 

x. Enforce utilities to supply Broadband and high-speed internet to all rural locations. 

xi. A realisation that post COVID-19 we all may have to pay more for goods and services. The CHEAP culture of buyers constantly reducing supplier prices has to be reviewed. This culture has led many MSME living hand to mouth with no potential for profit or building up of cash reserves. If businesses were advised to have a 3-month cash reserve this would better protect the business and the employees and less companies would fail as a result.

 

The Association of Business Mentors is registered in England and Wales under company number 7533326 at The Nest, 12-18 Sampson Street, London, E1W 1NA
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