Additional Covid-19 support could help farm businesses

Farmers with hospitality and leisure businesses affected by the rise in Covid-19 cases may be eligible for further government cash support .

Those supplying them may also be able to claim additional grants through their local authority. 

On 21 December, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £1bn fund to support hospitality and leisure businesses directly, with up to £6,000 for each eligible premises.

Alongside this he also allocated a further £100m to the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) fund for local authorities in England.

See also: Diversification case studies and advice 

The government will prioritise the distribution of this additional sum to local authorities that have distributed the most of their existing allocation.

In turn, local authorities will have discretion to allocate the £100m to businesses most in need.

Stacey Burlet, chief executive officer of Ryedale District Council, North Yorkshire, welcomed the support for hospitality and leisure businesses.

“While the Omicron variant continues to spread quickly in the UK, people are being sensibly and understandably cautious about what activities they take part in, but that does leave businesses across Ryedale yet again facing a tough situation,” said Ms Burlet.

“This grant funding will go some way towards easing that pressure. However, we know it is not just those public-facing businesses that will be impacted by the surge of Omicron, many suppliers to those industries will also feel the effect.

“It is therefore encouraging that the government has allocated more than £100m to boost the Additional Restrictions Grant fund. This will allow us as, a local authority, to help those businesses in our district further up the supply chain that are most in need.”

However, there were no details yet from the government as to which types of suppliers will be prioritised for this funding.

Since the start of the pandemic, Ryedale District Council, whose area includes many diversified farm businesses, as well as other rural food and drink enterprises and tourist destinations, has distributed £45m of grants to more than 7,500 businesses.

Sick pay help for business

As Covid-19 case numbers rise, the government is also reintroducing the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS).

This reimburses employers with fewer than 250 employees the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for Covid-related absences, for up to two weeks for each employee.

Firms are eligible for the scheme from 21 December and will be able to make claims retrospectively from mid-January.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive about £150m of funding through the Barnett formula as part of this latest support package.

Existing support

The new measures add to the existing support for businesses affected by Covid-19 including:

  • Business rates relief – the majority of those in hospitality and leisure will get a 75% reduction in their business rates bill across the current financial year and 50% capped business rates relief in the next financial year
  • A 12.5% reduced rate of VAT for hospitality and tourism until the end of March
  • A £1.5bn Covid Additional Relief Fund for businesses that have not previously had business rates support
  • Protection from eviction until March 2022 if businesses are behind on rent payments for premises
  • Access to finance through the Recovery Loan Scheme until June
  • Bounce Back Loan repayment flexibility, with borrowers having the option to take a six-month repayment holiday, three six-month interest-only periods or to extend their loan to 10 years, which almost halves the monthly payment
  • Time to Pay option with HMRC for businesses affected by the pandemic. The chancellor has also asked HMRC to offer businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors the option of a short delay and payment in instalments, on a case-by-case basis, as part of this.