No surprise as Fife is placed in Tier 2 Covid restrictions

Thursday, 29 October 2020

The Scottish Government has confirmed that Fife will be placed in Tier 2 Covid restrictions from Monday 2nd November.  

What are the main Tier 2 business restrictions and rules?

  • Hairdressers, barbers, tailors and beauticians can remain open but mobile close contact services are not permitted
  • Pubs and restaurants can serve alcohol outdoors up to 10.30pm and indoors with a main meal up to 8pm 
  • Hotels and other accommodation can continue to serve meals indoors to residents
  • Cinemas and amusement arcades can open but soft play areas, night clubs, indoor bowling centres and theatres are amongst the leisure and entertainment premises that are closed
  • Only essential office or call centre working is permitted: working from home is advised in all other cases
  • Construction and manufacturing sites can remain open
  • Shops remain open
  • Business events are not permitted
  • Visitor attractions are allowed to open
  • Schools stay open, as do Fife College and the University of St Andrews.

What financial support is available for businesses in Tier 2?

A company that is forced to close will receive a grant of £2000 or £3000 (depending on rateable value) from the Scottish Government (distributed by Fife Council) every four weeks.  It can also use the revised Job Support Scheme under which the Treasury will pay two thirds of the salary of an employee up to a maximum of £2083 per month for as long as the business is ordered to close.  The  employer can top up the employee payment if they choose but this is discretionary.  The Scottish Government has also confirmed that night clubs and soft play centres can apply for a one-off grant of up to £50000.

Where a business is allowed to remain open but  its trading hours or activities are restricted, they can apply for a hardship grant of £1400 or £2100 (depending on rateable value).  It will also be paid every four weeks.  These firms can also use the Job Support Scheme where an employee works a minimum of 20% of their normal hours.  The employee will be paid by his/her employer for the hours actually worked.  He/she will receive two thirds of their normal pay for the hours they do not work.  The employer will pay 5% of this and the UK Government will pay the remainder.  It means that the vast majority of employees will earn at least 73% of their normal wages.

How long will Fife stay in Tier 2?

Each region’s Tier level will be reviewed weekly  but they are likely to remain in place for at least two to four weeks.   The First Minister has said that there will be no move into a lower Tier until there is clear evidence of a sustained fall in the rate of infection.  

Commenting on these developments, Alan Mitchell, Chief Executive of Fife Chamber, said: “The majority of businesses in Fife will not be surprised to learn that it has been placed in Tier 2, with all the restrictions on their trading and operational activity that brings.  

“The restrictions Fife faces in Tier 2 are obviously less than those in Tier 3 and it is great that pubs and restaurants can now serve alcohol indoors with a meal but businesses will still be disappointed that they are still facing such wide ranging restrictions when they have invested heavily to make their operations safe and no evidence has been presented to demonstrate that business premises are driving an increase in infections.  That is particularly true of offices and factories but it is also the case in most hospitality settings.  Where businesses breach the rules they should face severe sanctions to curb them and allow the vast majority of compliant businesses to trade to the fullest extent possible.

“The financial support provided through the hardship grants and the UK Treasury’s Job Support Scheme will go some way to cushioning the impact on business finances and employment, but closures and job losses still seem inevitable, and possibly on a very large scale. The grants being provided seem too small and even more worrying is the First Minister’s comment that she guarantee that even these payments will be available for all businesses for the full duration of the restrictions because of budget constraints.  The Scottish Government is entitled to expect Barnett Consequentials funding from the UK Government to the value of the grants given to firms in England who are closed or restricted in their trading.  But if it chooses to go further than the UK in the scope or duration of restrictions, the Scottish Government must take responsibility for its own policy and fund the business support packages from its own budgets.  

He added, “There is no clear exit strategy presented by the Scottish Government.  It says restrictions will be in place in some shape and form until a vaccine or better treatments are available.  A vaccine could be many months or even years away.  It might never come.  Test and trace needs to step up to the plate and the UK and Scottish governments must re-double their efforts to get the system working effectively.  Failing to do so, and not increasing the capacity of the NHS to care for more Covid patients, will mean we’ll have to use the blunt tool of shutting down and then restarting large swathes of the country on a regular basis to control the virus.  That will result in eye watering levels of deep and long lasting economic, social, mental and physical health damage that will soon eclipse the harm caused by Covid.“

Click here for the Scottish Government Covid 19 Strategic Framework

Click here for the financial support for night clubs and soft play areas

Click here for the Job Support Scheme