Welcome to our round up of the latest business news for clients. Please contact us if you want to talk about how these updates affect your business. We are here to support you!

COP26 – UN Climate change conference 

The UK is hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow until the 12 November 2021.

Climate change is probably the world’s most pressing problem. It is widely accepted governments must take more cuts in warming gases if we are to prevent higher global temperature rises. The summit in Glasgow is where change may happen. We need to look at the promises made by the world’s larger economies and whether poorer countries get help to make changes.  

Decisions made at the COP26 conference will impact all of our lives in the future and most importantly, the future of our planet. 

The COP26 summit brings parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Cop26 website is:  HOME – UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (ukcop26.org)

The COP26 Green Zone is open to the public at the Glasgow Science Centre. There are a wide range of events, including workshops, art exhibitions and installations, as well as presentations, demonstrations of technology and musical performances.

Youth groups, civil society, academia, artists and businesses from across the UK and all over the world are taking part. With over 100 exhibitors, 200 events and 11 sponsors taking over the space, there are opportunities to listen, learn and celebrate climate action.

COP26 Green Zone events with a business focus are listed on the website listed below.

See: Green Zone Programme of Events – UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (ukcop26.org)

UK Autumn budget highlights

Before last week’s Budget we already knew that corporation tax would increase in 2023 and that there will be a 1.25% rise in National Insurance Contributions (NICs) from April 2022 paid by employers, employees, self-employed and for those with share dividend income.  Personal allowances are frozen until 2026 and we are told these rises are to pay for Covid-19 measures and reform of the social care system. The tax burden as a percentage of UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is now at its highest level since the 1950’s according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.   

The “scarring assumption” of the pandemic, as the Treasury called it last week, hasn’t been as bad as forecasts imagined so Chancellor Rishi Sunak, buoyed by a recent OBR economic report which has lifted its prediction for economic growth in 2021 to 6.5%, chose to increase government spending by £150 billion rather than reverse some of the previously announced tax increases. He did state at the end of his speech that the government would look at lowering the tax burden before the end of this parliament.

Some of the key spending measures include:

  • Funding will increase by an average of £4.6bn for Scottish Government, £2.5bn for Welsh Government, and £1.6bn for Northern Ireland Executive
  • £6bn of funding to help tackle NHS backlogs
  • £7bn for transport projects in areas including Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and South Yorkshire
  • Levelling Up Fund of £1.7bn invested in local areas across the UK
  • Extra funding to clear the courts backlog
  • Tax relief for museums and galleries will be extended for two years
  • Core science funding to rise to £5.9bn a year by 2024-25
  • Universal Credit taper rate will be cut by 8% no later than 1 December, bringing it down to 55% 

Despite speculation before the budget there were no changes to pension tax relief or ISA limits, CGT rates have remained the same and the first £1 million is still taxed at 10% when you sell your business.

Some welcome measures that were announced are the 50% cut in business rates for hospitality for one year and a change in the business rates multiplier, which will lower business rates. The chancellor also announced a cut in beer duty sold on premises and wider reforms that will see alcohol taxed by alcoholic strength rather than by product category. The planned rise in fuel duty was cancelled.

The national living wage (NLW) rate for those aged 23 or over has been increased to £9.50 an hour. For an employee working a 35-hour week that would mean £17,290 a year. With the 1.25% increase in employers NIC to 15.05% on earnings over £9,100 a year would mean £1,233 on top increasing the cost to the employer of £18,523 a year before pension costs.

For the details of the Autumn budget and spending review see: Budget and Spending Review – October 2021: What you need to know – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Christmas 2021 – Latest Recommended Posting Dates

Allow plenty of time for posting and post items and gifts for Christmas early, particularly for International deliveries: 

  • Friday 17 December 2021  – Royal Mail Bulk Mail Economy
  • Saturday 18 December 2021 – 2nd Class, 2nd Class Signed For, Royal Mail 48
  • Tuesday 21 December 2021 – 1st Class, 1st Class Signed For, Royal Mail 24, Royal Mail Tracked 48
  • Wednesday 22 December 2021 – Royal Mail Tracked 24
  • Thursday 23 December 2021 – Special Delivery Guaranteed

See: Get ready for Christmas 2021 | Royal Mail Group Ltd

UK Seafood Innovation Fund third call open

The Seafood Innovation Fund (SIF) is now accepting third call applications. The SIF programme focuses on delivering longer term, cutting-edge innovation across the seafood sector, and helping to take innovative ideas from early-stage research to commercial viability.

The programme includes:

  • primary producers
  • onshore supply chains
  • marine and diadromous fisheries
  • marine and land-based aquaculture

The programme excludes:

  • freshwater fishing
  • recreational fishing

This call is open for feasibility studies only. The maximum funding available is £50,000 for projects with a duration of up to five months. Successful third call feasibility studies will be eligible to apply for larger R&D funding following completion of their projects.

See:  How to Apply FAQs – Seafood Innovation Fund

Make a late Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme claim

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ended on 30 September 2021. 14 October 2021 was the last date to make a claim for September.

For claim periods from 1 November 2020, HMRC may accept late claims or amendments if you have:

  1. Taken reasonable care to try and claim on time.
  2. A reasonable excuse.
  3. Claimed as soon as your reasonable excuse no longer applies.

A reasonable excuse could include:

  • your partner or another close relative died shortly before the claim deadline
  • you had an unexpected stay in hospital that prevented you from dealing with your claim
  • you had a serious or life-threatening illness, including coronavirus (COVID-19) related illnesses, which prevented you from making your claim (and no one else could claim for you)
  • a period of self-isolation prevented you from making your claim (and no one else could make the claim for you)
  • your computer or software failed just before or while you were preparing your online claim
  • service issues with HMRC online services prevented you from making your claim
  • a fire, flood or theft prevented you them from making your claim
  • postal delays that you could not have predicted prevented you from making your claim
  • delays related to a disability you have prevented you from making your claim
  • an HMRC error prevented you from making your claim

As soon as you are ready to make a late claim or amendment, you need to:

  1. Check if you have a reasonable excuse.
  2. Make sure you have all the information you need to process your claim.
  3. Contact HMRC using the helpline to check with an advisor if you can claim.

If your reasonable excuse is accepted, the advisor will process your claim over the phone.

See: Make a late Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme claim – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Global Entrepreneurship Week 2021

Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW)  is a collection of tens of thousands of events, activities and competitions each November that inspire millions to explore their potential as an entrepreneur while fostering connections with investors, researchers, policymakers and other start-up champions.

This year’s takes place from 8 November to 14 November 2021.

See: UK | Global Entrepreneurship Network (genglobal.org)

Digital security by design: software ecosystem development

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £8 million for projects to work on the development of the digital security by design (DSbD) software ecosystem. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. 

The aim of this competition is to fund a range of projects that work to enrich and expand the Digital Security by Design (DSbD) software ecosystem prior to the availability of commercial hardware. Projects will leverage the DSbD Technology Hardware Prototype (also known as Morello Board) to work on a focused area within a selected and specified software stack or Operating System (OS) or developer toolchain used by a digital system.

Closing date for entries is 11am on 8 December 2021.

See: Competition overview – ISCF digital security by design – software ecosystem development – Innovation Funding Service (apply-for-innovation-funding.service.gov.uk)

Building a confident future for electric car users

The EV Charging Action Plan also sets out how the Welsh Government will be working closely with the private sector, with the aim of delivering a charging point facility for every 20 miles of the strategic trunk network across Wales by 2025, providing further reassurance to electric vehicle drivers. 

With transport generating around 17% of all carbon emissions in Wales, improving electric vehicle infrastructure is just one step that the Welsh Government is taking to reduce the impact transport is having on both the environment and our health. Llwybr Newydd, the Welsh Government’s transport strategy, sets out how we will shape our transport system in Wales over the next 20 years encouraging more people out of cars and using public transport, walking or cycling. 

The Welsh Government’s Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) Transformation Fund has already provided a kick-start for many EV projects across Wales.

Carmarthenshire Council was awarded a £350,000 grant to develop a rapid charging facility on the A48 in Cross Hands. The multi-point charging facility will serve one of the main tourist routes through Wales. The facility comprises five rapid chargers from 50kW to 150kW under a solar canopy with capacity for further expansion and is expected to be operational later this year.

The next round of ULEV funding will open for bids in December 2021. The fund will help local authorities deliver more than 300 publicly accessible fast and rapid charging points across Wales this financial year. There are also plans in place to increase both public and private sector delivery in line with the Welsh Government’s strategy in future years.

See: Building a confident future for electric car users | GOV.WALES

Transport and logistics – information for employers

Support for this sector of the economy is available and could include the following programmes:

  • The ReAct programme can also help employers who wish to recruit an eligible individual with a wage subsidy of up to £3000, paid in 4 instalments over a 12-month period. The programme can also award a job-related training grant of up to 50% of the cost of training, up to a maximum of £1000 per new recruit. Visit Business Wales’ React
  • Personal Learning Accounts (PLAs) are also available to employers to help them upskill their staff to help businesses remain, and indeed become more competitive in the face of the dual challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK decision to leave the European Union. Courses and qualifications for delivery through PLA are endorsed by Regional Skills Partnerships (RSP) to ensure they meet current or projected skills gaps and regional priority sectors. Visit Business Wales’ Personal Learning Accounts
  • The training element of apprenticeships is funded by the Welsh Government, with the employer responsible for the wage costs and any additional training requirements. Visit Business Wales’ Apprenticeships
  • The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Logistics Programme offers tailored support to the individual employer or sector based on an assessment of their requirements for entry skills. DWP works with Welsh Government and other partners to develop packages of support and funding which are assessed on a case-by-case basis

See: Work in transport and logistics | Working Wales (gov.wales)

Changes to the rules for international travel

In line with changes being made in the rest of the UK, the Welsh government has agreed to make the following changes to the requirements for international travel:

  • Remove the remaining seven countries from the red list
  • Add an additional 35 countries to the list of countries whose vaccinations and certifications we recognise for international travel.

These changes were introduced from 4.00 am on 1 November. Some technical changes to the passenger information requirements and private test provider obligations to notify Public Health Wales about test results have also been made.

See: Written Statement: Changes to the rules for international travel (28 October 2021) | GOV.WALES

Changes to rules for international travel – testing arrangements

The Welsh government has confirmed all fully-vaccinated travellers arriving in Wales will be able to take a lateral flow test instead of the current requirement to take a PCR test.

The changes came into force 31 October. All adults in Wales, who have completed their two-dose course of the Covid-19 vaccine and the majority of under 18s, who have travelled from countries which are not on the red list, are able to take a lateral flow test, on or before day two of their arrival into the UK.

If people have a positive lateral flow test on their return from travelling overseas, they are now required to isolate for 10 days and take a follow-up PCR test.

People will continue to have the option of booking and taking a PCR test as the required day two test as they currently have.

See: Written Statement: Changes to rules for international travel – testing arrangements (22 October 2021) | GOV.WALES

Proposed livestock movement changes consultation

The Welsh Government is asking for views on plans to change how livestock are identified, registered and their movements reported. 

The consultation, which runs until 2 January, relates to processes for sheep, goats, cattle and pigs together with the proposed implementation of Bovine Electronic Identification (Bovine EID).

The changes the Welsh Government aims to implement would see mandatory whole movement reporting, and journey information for all livestock which will help the farming industry to improve farm management and support disease control.

It also proposes voluntary pre-movement reporting which would be recorded electronically before the animal leaves the holding. This could potentially allow the removal of paper movement forms for sheep.

There would also be a mandatory requirement for Central Point Recording Centres, such as markets and abattoirs, to read Electronic Identification (EID) tags and provide same day reporting for all livestock.

Further amendments include a new Welsh cattle passport and the removal of registration and movement reporting for cattle in paper format.

In addition, in 2023 the Welsh Government intends to introduce electronic identification for cattle. This means all new born calves after an agreed launch date, would need to be identified with two tags with at least one of these being an EID tag.

Online herd and flock registers and a dedicated circular show movement process to reduce multiple movement reports would also be introduced.

Views are also being sought on the future identification options for pigs together with an annual registration of holdings and annual inventory of pigs kept in Wales.

See: Have your say on proposed livestock movement changes | GOV.WALES