£330bn coronavirus business loan plan: what designers need to know

SMEs can expect more help than previously stated under new “unprecedented” business loan plan, as PM Boris Johnson encourages Brits to tap into their inner “Blitz Spirit” to get through the COVID-19 crisis.

Just seven days after his first Budget statement, chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a host of new measures to further protect Britain’s businesses against the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week’s Budget had already promised a fiscal stimulus of £30 billion to combat the ongoing crisis – but in a press conference yesterday Sunak announced additional provisions would be made available to businesses, to the tune of £330 billion.

The measures which are now being implemented, which are equivalent to 15% of GDP, were “unimaginable” just two weeks ago according to the chancellor.

Small business provisions

Among the provisions announced is a grant system aimed at small businesses, which will, of course, include a lot of design studios and companies. This Small Business Rate Relief can now go up to £10,000, rather than the £3,000 that was originally announced in last week’s Budget. Those wanting to apply for the relief fund should head to the gov.uk website for more information.

Many creative organisations and cultural spaces will also likely benefit from Sunak’s extension of a 12-month 100% business rates holiday, which is now being rolled out to all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.

On top of this, those institutions operating from premises with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 can also apply for further grants of up to £25,000, to deal with business expenses.

Beyond provisions for small businesses, Sunak also introduced an updated Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, boosting potential borrowing from £1.2 million to £5 million. The first six months of this finance will be interest free for borrowers.

Mortgage moratorium

Sunak also announced that lenders had agreed to a mortgage moratorium for up to three months for those affected by the coronavirus.

While this was welcomed alongside the additional financial aid, some industry bodies believe the government is yet to tackle other pressing issues experienced in the wake of COVID-19.

Commenting after Sunak’s announcement yesterday, Creative Industries Federation CEO Caroline Norbury said: “The measures announced on mortgage payments and alleviating hardship are welcome but fall short of guaranteeing these workers’ income – a government measure that is now desperately needed.

“A third of the UK’s creative workforce is self-employed and they will be hit hard.”

In Design Week’s guide to coronavirus finance for freelancers which was released this week, a spokesperson for the United Voices of the World’s Designers and Cultural Workers branch said that more than just mortgage holidays, the creative industry needs rent freezes across housing and studio spaces too.

In PMQs today, Boris Johnson said he was “bringing forward legislation to protect private renters from eviction” – however this has been criticised by some as simply shifting the problem, if it is not implemented properly.

IR35 postponed

Elsewhere in yesterday’s update, the government also announced it would be postponing the implementation of much-criticised changes to IR35 legislation. The reforms will now come into effect on 6 April 2021, rather than 6 April 2020, as originally planned.

Design Week reported back in February how the industry was largely against such measures, for reasons including a projected 25% loss of earnings, with few additional employment rights.

Philippa Childs, head of creative industries trade union Bectu, welcomed the delay, saying: “Now is not the time to introduce complicated measures that the private sector of the economy was not fully prepared for.”

Childs went on, however, to say that this wasn’t enough to properly support freelancers and the self-employed.

“Further measures need to be introduced to ensure that freelancers who facing their entire livelihoods being wiped out are not left in financial ruin,” she says, adding that Bectu is calling for interest free tax back loans, 0% interest loans on other forms of borrowing and help for renters in the wake of the crisis.

Moving forward

The updated support plan was largely welcomed by the Design Council’s senior policy advisor Matthew Young, who told Design Week: “Business support is essential both now and into the future, to save and then nurture our innovators and suppliers.”

Young went on to say that he hopes designers and their various skill would be approached to help out in the response.

“Designers can be crucial in the immediate and medium-term response to coronavirus, as key public services reshape, business processes and practices adapt to changed realities, and as new medical and other products are designed, tested and manufactured.

“And as we emerge from the immediate crisis, they will be central in ensuring we are better equipped to deal with pandemics and major public health issues. I know designers across the country are ready to contribute and I urge government at every level to make use of them.”

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  • Neil Littman March 19, 2020 at 9:07 am

    Good news about putting IR35 on hold which has been concerning several friends of mine who are freelancers. However, I was also told it only affects companies with 50 or more employees and is not aimed at individual creatives. Some confirmation would be good. Might also be timely to speak to the agencies and find out how many have moved over to home working and how they are coping with the demands of changing the way they do things. Almost every agency is having to consider this as a short-term measure.

  • Lisa March 19, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Many designers and small / micro design companies just don’t want to take out loans just in case they can’t pay them back. Our work by its nature is often unmanageable as it is fast turnaround and responsive rather than subject to long-term planning. We work very much hand-to-mouth, and only make a small profit over a year because the year equals out. Some months we win others we lose. Any grants we are given will be thankfully accepted, but what would help even more is a freeze on PAYE and on VAT for this coming 3 months. As it is we are unlikey to make any money in April – our clients are all in the leisure and travel industries, but we still have to pay Rent, PAYE and VAT over the next 30 days even if we can’t afford to pay ourselves and our staff.

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