Orkney Islands Council, Business Gateway Orkney and other partner agencies have established an Economic and Business Response and Recovery Group.
The group will form the basis for the organisations to work together in efforts to coordinate appropriate support to local businesses in light of the immediate and long term economic impacts of Covid-19.
The OIC’s Director of Development and Infrastructure, Gavin Barr, said: “This is an incredibly challenging time for all of Orkney, with immediate impact for our local businesses and employees.
“The scale of these matters is immense and will require concentrated effort of our local organisations to seek to coordinate the promised national level support to address the immediate and long-term challenges arising from this crisis. Our focus this week has been on receiving and communicating the flow of national information out to the community.
“We have done this through communications issued through Business Gateway and OIC websites and social media. At this stage it is essential that we sequence our approach with the National Government responses.”
The Council’s current understanding - at this time - is that Scottish Government support which will be made available to businesses across Scotland will include:
- A full year’s 100% non-domestic rates relief for retail, hospitality and tourism.
- £10,000 grants for small businesses in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief.
- £25,000 grants for hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000.
- 1.6% relief for all properties, effectively freezing the poundage rate next year.
- First Minister to convene an emergency meeting of the Financial Services Advisory Board.
- Urging local authorities to relax planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to operate temporarily as takeaways.
- Extending the go live date for the deposit return scheme to July 2022.
- Halting the introduction of the Visitor Levy Bill.
It is expected that the Scottish Government will put all these measures into law on 24 March 2020, and will provide further details at that time.
It is understood that Orkney Islands Council will be responsible for administering rate reliefs and grants – the council will be in touch with local businesses who are eligible in the coming weeks when we have sufficient information from the Scottish Government on these matters.
Mr Barr continued: “This is a rapidly evolving situation and we will continue to keep track of the national schemes as details emerge and consider what actions are then appropriate locally to ensure effective support for our local businesses.
“The Council has had contact from business representatives this week and will be looking to arrange a more formal discussion with those representatives next week, by which time it is hoped that there will be further information available on the national schemes for us to consider how best to manage this situation for Orkney.”
Business Gateway in Orkney is developing relevant information and support to help businesses with the Coronavirus pandemic and the challenges they now face. That information is available on the Business Gateway website and will be continuously updated.
Claire Kemp, of Business Gateway Orkney, said: “We are determined to remain open to deliver free support to local businesses. Our advisers continue to provide help with a wide range of business matters including continuity planning, though to protect everyone's health and well-being this won't be face-to-face but by phone, email and other online communication tools. As we identify common issues and needs, we intend to deliver further support online using, for example, webinars.”
Every effort is being made using all methods of communication to keep businesses and their employees with as up-to-date information as possible, she added.
“The rapidly changing situation for many is a real concern, but we are here to offer any support and advice we can and it is critical that the national level support which will be forthcoming is effectively targeted and accessed by local businesses.
“We would suggest that people follow our social media or get in touch directly on 01856 88 66 66. We would like to thank businesses for their patience at this very challenging time and assure them that we will pass on any national guidance as soon as we are informed.”