Supporting you through COVID-19
To help our tenants respond to the impact of COVID-19, we are sharing important updates about how the Foundation is working with our tenants during this time, and how you can access government grants and funding to support your business.
1. Message from Mark Coles, Executive Director, Property
COVID-19 has changed every aspect of life as we knew it, from home and work, to travel and leisure pursuits. It has paralysed and destabilised businesses of all sizes and sectors around the world. Although we are encouraged to see many of our tenants reopening since restrictions were eased, we know things are not the same. Our Chief Executive, Graham Fisher, has spoken publicly about our own financial situation.
On Friday we announced that 40 people across the Foundation are at risk of losing their jobs, with some services and venues facing temporary or permanent closure. This is devasting for us all, not least the staff who worked so hard last year to allow us to go into 2020 with confidence. We are having to change how we work and explore new ways of collaborating with partners and other organisations to secure a better economic future for our town. You can read more about these changes in Graham’s latest blog as well as the inspiring community spirit that has come out of this crisis.
My message to all our tenants remains the same – come and talk to us and we will work with you to find a way forward. Our team are here to help.
2. Latest from the government - beauty salons, outdoor theatres, gyms and pools to reopen in England
The government announced that beauty and nail salons as well as tattoo studios and tanning salons reopened from Monday 13 July. From 25 July, gyms, pools and leisure centres also reopened. We know this will be a relief to some of our tenants who have expressed frustration at not being included in the initial round of openings earlier this month.
You can read more on reopening your business safely on the government’s website. If your business is based in the town centre you can also receive support and guidance on making your premises COVID secure from the Letchworth BID.
3. Updates on grants and other financial support for Letchworth businesses
Government funding is now available through NHDC
Since our last update, North Herts District Council (NHDC) has awarded more than 2,000 grants worth more than £24million to businesses impacted by COVID-19.
If you run a small business from a property with a rateable value of under £15,000, and you have been impacted by COVID-19, you may be eligible for a £10,000 grant. Businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors with a ratable value of under £51,000 could be eligible for grants of either £10,000 or £25,000.
To apply for a grant, visit NHDC’s website.
Don’t forget - NHDC is also offering a business rates relief scheme. If you qualify for a business rates holiday, you don’t need to do anything – the council will apply the discount automatically.
Reminder - Applications for Discretionary Grants are now closed.
Hertfordshire LEP Business Support Package
Don’t forget, Herts Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has launched a £3.28m support package to help businesses who have been impacted by COVID-19. These include:
- Crowdfund Hertfordshire: Small Business Innovation Fund which is administered by Visit Herts. This fund will support small and micro businesses within the tourism, leisure, hospitality, retail, arts and cultural sectors.
- Hertfordshire Business Expansion Grant Scheme is open to all SMEs (some eligibility criteria apply). Grants for capital expenditure range from £10k - £100k.
- Hertfordshire LEP SME Growth Loan Scheme offers loans of £200k – £500k available to established SMEs in Hertfordshire requiring finance to implement expansion activities that will deliver substantial growth (LEP funded).
- Low Carbon Innovation Fund is a £22m+ investment initiative led by the University of East Anglia and Norfolk County Council, to support SMEs that are making a positive impact on greenhouse gas reduction through the development of innovative technologies, products or services (ERDF funded).
The Volunteer Business Support Scheme has been set up to provide additional peer-to-peer advice and support to businesses affected by COVID-19. If your business is interested in benefitting from the scheme you should initially contact the Hertfordshire Growth Hub, who will refer eligible businesses on to the scheme. Businesses will be matched to a volunteer who will be able to provide help and guidance aligned to business need.
If you are an experienced business professional and would like to become a volunteer to support other companies through this difficult time, you can sign up via the University of Hertfordshire website.
4. Why we're backing further support for tenants and landlords
In mid-June, we wrote to local Ministers, MPs as well as councillors at NHDC and Herts County Council, calling on them to support the introduction of a Furloughed Space Grant Scheme (FSGS). The scheme is being proposed by the British Property Federation and the British Retail Consortium, who are deeply concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on retailers and the commercial property sector.
What is an FSGS?
Put simply, it's a relief scheme to help both tenants and landlords. The scheme would see tenants, landlords, lenders and the government work together to share the cost burden. Similar initiatives have been successfully implemented across Europe and we are confident that a similar scheme could work in the UK.
Why is this issue important to us?
The Foundation is only able to carry out its charitable activities because of the revenue generated by our property portfolio. Our income has declined significantly since March, which has had an impact on every aspect of what we do.
Without businesses operating successfully, Letchworth's entire economy will suffer, as will the very fabric of our town. This scheme could be the lifeline that Letchworth and many other towns need to get local businesses back up and running.
With restrictions easing, why is it needed?
Many of our tenants are still unable to open including beauty therapists, tattoo artists and gyms. We are concerned about their future and want to put pressure on the government to help them.
We are keeping a close eye on further conversations taking place between the government and the British Property Federation and the British Retail Consortium.
Introducing Tim Fell
Tim Fell is our new Asset and Relationships Manager who joins us from Grice Collins Long. Tim is responsible for the industrial portfolio and has taken over from Alastair McAlpine who retired in March. Tim’s contact details are:
M: 07714 521501
5. Celebrating our independent businesses
June saw the return of our business blog series, this time with a focus on the incredible innovative spirit shown by some of our tenants who run independent businesses. Have a read some of their stories:
If you would like to share how you have adapted in this tough environment (you don’t have to be a retailer) get in touch with our communications team by emailing email@example.com. They’d love to hear from you.
6. Get in touch with our Property Team
If you have yet to speak to us about your tenancy and need guidance, please contact the property team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .