On Monday, 22 February 2021, Boris Johnson unveiled England’s four-step program for easing Britons out of lockdown.
Although the rhyme and reason of the plan have been questioned, one thing is for sure: There is a roadmap, and there is hope for businesses to open up again soon, especially those in the hospitality industry that have been nearly decimated by closures since March 2020.
Key dates for businesses to know
Number 10 revealed a lot of info in his briefing, but the salient points for businesses are as follows:
- Schools reopen, and all kids can go back to face-to-face teaching. Why is this a key date for businesses? Because it means a lot of parents will be able to work without distractions!
- Two people from different households will be able to meet together outside — cue the in-person business meetings at Hyde Park!
- Weddings can take place without “exceptional circumstances”, but attendance will be limited to 30 people. That’s fine, more cake for everybody!
- The Rule of Six will be reinstated. This means that six people from up to six different households or an unlimited number of people from two households will be able to meet outdoors. Cue business meetings over a barbecue in your neighbour’s backyard!
- Gyms can open again (finally!) for individual training.
- People can get their excessively long hair cut at a local barber or hairdresser, which will (finally!) be allowed to open again.
- Pubs and restaurants can serve food outdoors. The Rule of Six will apply to groups. Although it would be lovely if there was sunshine, I’m pretty sure few people will give a hoot about a bit of rain at a local restaurant after our enforced house arrests of nearly a year.
- If you have a property on Airbnb, know that Brits can stay at your place so long as it is self-catering.
- Pubs and restaurants can allow customers indoors. Cue afternoon business meetings over a pint at The Star Tavern!
- Saunas and spas will (finally!) be back in business.
- For those of you doing business in the sporting events industry — as of 17 May, events will be allowed to be held with a maximum attendance of 10,000 people. Not quite the crowd we’d expect at a Matchday 38 game on 23 May after fans have been denied attendance for so long, but it’s a start.
- No more limits on the number of guests at a wedding. (Sorry about the smaller cake portions, folks. But you could always order a second or even a third cake to help out those catering businesses hit hard by the lockdowns.)
- PAAAAAAARTY! Yes, nightclubs can finally open after being shut since the first lockdown. Meeting on the dance floor? Methinks not! (But certainly a chance to unwind after a long week’s toil.)
Before you get your hopes up…
It’s important to remain cautious and to remember that this government has sent people back into their homes and closed businesses down three times in a row. Whether those decisions were correct or not is irrelevant. The point is that it happened.
Although the roadmap was laid out and has been reported on extensively across the UK, Boris Johnson also said that there was no guarantee that the lockdown would indeed end completely on 21 June.
He said that he would be driven by “data, not dates”. We can only hope that the data received is accurate. As the old IT saying goes: “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. If you feed a computer program rubbish, it will spew out rubbish conclusions.
When watching this eye-opening video, one cannot help but think of that classic tale, The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Whether Wolf! is being cried with malice aforethought or simply through terrible transparency and a lack of effective planning, is irrelevant. In either case, you need to be prepared.
So, as desperate as we all are to get back outside, do please keep your head. Promises have been broken before, and the last thing anyone needs is to suffer yet another dip in this emotional rollercoaster we’re all on here in the UK.
Our advice to you in business is to always look for additional streams of income, whether those streams come from your current business or a new one.
Business rates and business loans announcements
Number 10 will be making further announcements related to business rates relief and business loans next week. There have been multiple financial aid schemes released amid all the uncertainty in the last year such as the £4.6 billion in lockdown grants announced in January 2021; the £20 million in grants for SMEs announced in July; VAT cuts for the hospitality sector; the Self -Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS); and others.
As unemployment reaches new highs, relief in business rates and properly incentivised business loans that don’t cripple borrowers might be just the boost required to inject life back into the UK economy.
Shoaib Aslam is the co-founder of Pearl Chartered Accountants, a UK-based chartered accountancy firm that has multiple locations across London. They are experts in helping startups and established businesses with all aspects of growth, strategy, scaling up, accounting and tax planning.