COVID-19 Update: March 27
SELF-EMPLOYMENT INCOME SUPPORT SCHEME
Last night we finally got news from the government about support available for self employed people. The new scheme is broadly in line with what we were expecting, and gives similar support to that offered to employees. But I do have a number of concerns around the timing of the distribution of funds (not until June) and eligibility for the scheme. I am particularly concerned about people who have been self employed for less than a year, or whose profits were just over the £50,000, neither of whom will receive any support.
The Government says: "You can use this scheme if you're self-employed or a member of a partnership and have lost income due to coronavirus. This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed. "You can apply if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:
have submitted your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19
traded in the tax year 2019-20
are trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19
intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19
your self-employed trading profits must also be less than £50,000.
If you have not submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19, you must do this by 23 April 2020. My colleague Ed Davey, the Acting Leader for the Liberal Democrats, has responded today, saying, "I am hugely concerned about how long this will take to deliver. Many sole traders like taxi drivers, hairdressers and cleaners will not be able to wait until June."
We will continue to press government to ensure that no one falls through the safety net at this difficult time, and to ask for these gaps in provision to be addressed immediately.
RICHMOND PARK CLOSED TO CYCLISTS FROM TOMORROW, SATURDAY MARCH 28
Sadly, the meticulous efforts by so many residents to abide by social distancing rules have not been enough to keep Richmond Park a safe environment. Royal Parks announced today with regret that they are temporarily suspending cycling in Richmond Park from tomorrow. They say this is due to bottlenecks at the park entrances and cyclists not observing the two-metre distancing requirements.
Royal Parks do not have enough staff to manage the entrances and monitor compliance in the park, so they are banning cycling to try to enable people to continue to use the park on foot safely. They have said that children will still be able to cycle in the park, and they will provide more details on that soon. You can follow them on Twitter at @theroyalparks for up to the minute information.
RUNNERS AND CYCLISTS
I am getting a lot of calls from residents who feel they are put at risk by cyclists and runners who pass them at close range. Please remember that the two metre rule applies to you too, and don't pass close to other people using the parks and pavements.
With the roads nearly empty, cyclists should be able to stay well away from the pavements, and both runners and walkers will have the option of stepping off the pavement to let someone pass. (Obviously check the road visually before stepping into it!)
I have heard that this is a particular problem on Hammersmith Bridge. Please be patient and mindful when using the bridge and don't pass close to other users. TfL are looking at the possibility of opening the central span of the bridge to cycle traffic to alleviate the crowding.
Age UK have written to say they are continually updating their website to ensure information and advice is available to older people, their families and people in the community wanting to help their neighbours. Find their information here: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/coronavirus/ . Their latest advice includes information on how to avoid scams, and how to deal with an abusive partner, former partner or family member: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/coronavirus/staying-safe-and-well-at-home/staying-safe/
The BBC has launched specific programming to help audiences understand the issues, including ‘Coronavirus: Your Essential Update’ on last night at 7.30pm on BBC One, the daily edition of the Coronavirus podcast, Make A Difference on every local radio station (which joins up local volunteer groups to help co-ordinate support for the elderly, housebound or at risk,) and dedicated Newsround bulletins for children on air throughout the day on CBBC. They have also moved Question Time to 8pm on Thursdays.
EBAY OFFER TO SMALL BUSINESSES
New UK business sellers registering on eBay.co.uk from 26 March 2020 will not have to pay fees to list or sell for the next two months. This will automatically apply to the first 250 listings per calendar month until 31 May 2020. This initiative was designed to support small, local shops in converting their business to online sales.
HSBC SUPPORT FOR PERSONAL CUSTOMERS
HSBC has written to let me know that they will reduce or defer mortgage payments, temporarily increase credit card and overdraft limits, and allow early access to fixed-rate savings accounts without charges. They have passed on the base rate cut to variable rate mortgage customers. They are also introducing a temporary £300 interest-free buffer on overdrafts for a period of three months.
SANTANDER SUPPORT FOR PERSONAL CUSTOMERS
Over the past two weeks, we have introduced a series of measures to support customers, including those who are worried about their finances in light of the ongoing situation:
Payment holiday: Mortgage payment holidays of up to three months
Borrowing: Increased overdrafts or credit card limits may be available to customers
Access to savings: Customers can access money held in fixed rate bonds and fixed rate ISAs before the end of the fixed term, free of charge
Contactless payments: From 1 April, in coordination with other banks and the retail industry, we will increase the maximum payment for a contactless card from £30 to £45
Hold on repossessions: We have suspended all possession orders for three months.
Kingston Service Closures
Information about all of the services that have closed or are running reduced provision is available here: https://www.kingston.gov.uk/info/200287/health_and_wellbeing/1748/covid-19_coronavirus/2. This includes information about changes to waste and recycling collection.
Just a reminder that In response to the Covid-19 situation the council has established a volunteering network called Kingston Stronger Together working in partnership with Kingston Voluntary Action (KVA) and Volunteering Kingston. You can see their plans and regfister to volunteer here: https://www.kingston.gov.uk/info/200287/health_and_wellbeing/1748/covid-19_coronavirus/6
Barnfield Stables Asking for Assistance
Barnfield Stables and its charity Riding for the Disabled are going to be affected a great deal by the lock down. With the lack of riding lessons to bring in funds, feeding and caring for their horses will be very difficult. They are looking for any horse sponsorship/donations, or any time people may have to help us. A letter from Patsy, the proprietor, is on the front on their website www.barnfieldrda.org.
Household garden waste collections in Richmond paused due to Coronavirus
Green garden waste collections are being paused from Monday 30 March, until further notice, to direct resources into ensuring weekly household waste and recycling collections can continue during the Coronavirus pandemic. Townmead Road Reuse and Recycling Centre in Kew has also been temporarily closed, following Government guidance. Therefore, garden waste should not be taken there as an alternative.
RETIRED SOCIAL WORKERS
Retired social workers are being urged by Richmond Council to return to work and help support Richmond residents through the coronavirus pandemic.
Richmond Council is making provisions to offer 7-day-week services, from 8am-8pm, to cope with the increased demand anticipated over the coming months. A local campaign has been launched to recruit out-of-work social workers and invite those who have recently retired to temporarily return to work to help with the effort. Cllr Piers Allen, the Chair of the Adult Social Services, Health and Housing Committee at Richmond Council, said: “Ensuring that all our vulnerable residents are able to access the support they need is the number one priority for the Council at this time. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is putting a huge amount of pressure on our already very stretched social work teams."
It was wonderful to hear all the cheering and clapping for our NHS workers in the streets last night. Hopefully they know that we are grateful to them all the time and not just last night. But our social work force is also working flat out right now to support their clients through this hard time, and I would like to give them a special thanks today. Please know that if you are a retired social worker or social caregiver and your are returning to work to help vulnerable people through this crisis, your work will be appreciated and recognised too.