My bank holiday weekend was definitely dominated by Dominic Cummings. I would have much preferred it to have been dominated by my son Dominic and his wonderful wife and his small children. Under the Dominic Cummings rules perhaps it could have been!
We did have the great pleasure of seeing a 30 second video of the three-year-old Harper gliding down the slide into a paddling pool. I’ve been trying to get her that slide since the beginning of lockdown, in an attempt to make up for not being able to get to the park, and it was supposed to be an early, but is now a late, birthday present. The only way to achieve getting it sooner would have been either me or my son or his wife driving to Argos in Carlisle to collect and take the slide to their house. A small sacrifice perhaps but enough to make me rather cross - parental/grandparental instincts overridden due to Covid 19 restrictions.
Have you read this link from the government for what you can and can’t do? https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do. It is regularly updated and is actually very useful when you’re trying to make a difficult decision about what to do as, despite my fairly lightweight grumble, many people have faced such decisions over this period. Perhaps Mr Cummings should have studied this link - we’re told it was his idea in the first place…
The very fact that I am thinking this and sharing it with you demonstrates that whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation - this has been a complete distraction from the main point of government at the moment. Nobody seemed to even notice that we had only just over 100 deaths from Covid 19 registered on Sunday. Under a different set of circumstances this would have been a real milestone and made us all feel as if there was the possibility that proper progress was being made.
I listened to the Prime Minister’s responses to the select committee on Wednesday – a very well-choreographed event which is undoubtedly Boris’s attempt to get attention removed from a certain Mr Cummings.
Interestingly one MP questioned the point that, whereas the impact of the virus seems to have been fairly similar worldwide, there were major differences in the social distancing requirements. In the Far East it’s a metre. In Europe, my husband who works for a Dutch company keeps telling me, it’s a metre and a half, so at 2 metres we have the longest social distancing in the world! We were told this is based on the science – but, since I don’t believe science varies by continent, it is something of a mystery!
Select committee questions are always interesting and Boris did a good job in proving that the government were still on track. I’m still not sure how the reluctant are going to feel about self-isolating for two weeks with contact tracing which Matt Hancock made very clear later meant going home and staying home and not going anywhere else given the shenanigans at the beginning of April!
Even the announcement in the Thursday briefing that from Monday 1st June we will be able to meet in groups of 6 outside, (and not using the loo), failed to take the Cummings factor out of the question.
Rant over and back to the technical stuff:
Furlough warning - at the moment people are furloughing individuals and simultaneously going through redundancy negotiations with them. Whilst the regulations do not currently preclude this, there are indications that this is rather contrary to the purpose of the legislation. It’s possible that those furlough payments may ultimately need to be repaid to the government.
We still don’t have any further details on the extension to the general furlough scheme. I expect that this will be covered in Rishi Sunak’s briefing later today.
We also don’t know what is going to happen with the self-employed SEISS scheme beyond the end of this month, or how those who are digitally excluded will fare. One of our clients does not have a computer or email address so sending them a computer access code is not helpful. Despite my heaping praise on HMRC last week for getting the SEISS monies to people sooner than they had aimed for, only time will tell as to when the money for telephone applications will be received by those who are entitled as well.
There is currently a £41billion bill for borrowing under the business bounce back loan scheme which is helping to keep small businesses going. A warning to Director’s though – if they are unable to pay back the loans they will be deemed to have ‘acted improperly and breached their fiduciary duties or abused the loan scheme’. The most practical reason for not having the funds to repay the loan might be paying off a personal credit card bill. Common sense is therefore needed here – the loans are to the business for the business. Directors are, however, able to pay themselves as they normally would have.
On 25th May HMRC’s new online service to recover Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) went live. This is applicable to employers with less than 250 employees who have paid SSP for Covid-19 related reasons. More details on what SSP is eligible can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-back-statutory-sick-pay-paid-to-employees-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19#how-to-claim. In order to make a claim you need to be registered for PAYE Online, and have already paid your employees sick pay. Full details on how to claim are on the following link: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-back-statutory-sick-pay-paid-to-your-employees-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19
The government has extended the mortgage repayment holiday scheme and the ban on repossessions until the 31 October 2020. Great news.
Here’s an overview of the NHS test and trace service, including what happens if you test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) or have had close contact with someone who has tested positive: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works
With the reduction in terms of numbers of deaths, many of us are wondering when we’re going to be able to get back to doing relatively normal things like going to the hairdressers. The suggestion is that someone has actually opened a hairdressers already where they are able to get customers in with two meter gaps. All I can say is that they must have very large premises! Having been rather an addict of hairdressers, I feel a bit let down by not having been able to get anyone to do anything sensible with my hair for over two months now so I might revert to what I thought when I was a very much younger woman that actually letting nature take its course is the most sensible and, of course, the cheapest option. So if you see me looking rather like one of those And Mop cartoon creatures, which seemed to be popular when I was a child, this is in an investment in time in order to grow my hair to the point where I can actually put it elegantly up in a bun. Perhaps a hat is a better option!
Apparently shopping centres are getting themselves set up with the appropriate marking and sanitation changes required to enable them to open in the middle of June as the government is suggesting. Thankfully nobody is suggesting they open changing rooms – I would be quite pleased if there were never any changing rooms again. I find them a very unpleasant experience!
Our markets are opening at the beginning of next week thankfully. I’m a great fan of these and recommend that you find the nearest one and see if you can buy some of those essentials or treats you’ve been unable to get over the last couple of months.
The other big question is the ‘shall we move house’ one and I was quite interested to read an article in The Times by Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer, (for those of you who don’t know of Location, Location, Location and Love it or List it fame), of whom I have to say I am a bit of a fan. They are a realistic couple but they are being quite upbeat and suggesting that virtual viewings may actually cut down on some of the work of selling and buying a house and that whilst there is a suggestion there may be a 5% to 10% dip in the market for those who want to move, this may be an opportunity window so if you found a place you want to nest - pay what you can and don’t worry about getting the best deal. Nesting is what you do when you buy a home rather than investing.
Hopefully Track and Trace will soon enable all of this to be at European or Far Eastern social distancing levels rather than the UK’s 2 metres!
So please Mr Prime Minister find a way to park the Mr Cummings issue so we can all get on with the business of getting our lives back.
Enjoy your weekend
And keep well