- Here’s your business, motoring and general news round-up for Monday, April 20
Furlough scheme opens for applications
Up to 2.3m businesses are expected to apply for assistance paying some nine million employees under the government furlough scheme – the HMRC portal for which opens today.
The website is expected to be swamped with enquiries, but officials say it can handle 450,000 users an hour. Many businesses will be desperate to register their staff so they can pay them at the end of the month.
Approximately 5,000 HMRC staff will operate the scheme, intended to assist thousands of UK firms, with the money due to reach bank accounts within six working days, a statement from the Treasury said. Two thirds of firms have furloughed staff.
Snows Motor Group’s Neil McCue appears on Car Dealer Live midday today
Snows chief operating officer Neil McCue will be joining Car Dealer Live for an exclusive interview at midday today. Snows has 50 franchised dealerships, three approved service centres and several used car sites across the south.
Guests on Car Dealer Live this week also include Heycar’s Karen Hilton and Pentagon’s Jonathan Lingham tomorrow; Kia UK’s aftersales director Chris Lear and sales director Steve Hicks on Wednesday; Perrys MD Darren Ardron on Thursday and on Friday we’ll chat to Peter Vardy. You can watch today’s broadcast here.
Retail footfall saw worst ever decline in March
UK retail footfall experienced its sharpest ever decline after shops shut their doors in the face of the pandemic, according to new figures.
Footfall across retail destinations dived 44.7 per cent in March due to the government-mandated lockdown, according to the latest BRC-ShopperTrak footfall monitor.
It revealed that UK footfall declined by 17.7 per cent in the three weeks before the lockdown was enforced on March 23. However, in the two weeks after lockdown was announced, footfall sank by an average of 83.2 per cent.
Chief scientific adviser says vaccines are long shots
Vaccines are ‘long shots’ and people should not rely on the swift development of one for Covid-19, the government’s chief scientific adviser has warned.
A group of Oxford University researchers will begin clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine next week, but Sir Patrick Vallance says expectations need to be tempered.
He said: ‘All new vaccines that come into development are long shots; only some end up being successful, and the whole process requires experimentation. Coronavirus will be no different and presents new challenges for vaccine development. This will take time, and we should be clear it is not a certainty.’
Investigation: Should car dealers be selling and delivering cars during the lockdown?
News that online car dealer Cazoo had resumed sales this week were met with a mix of shock and disbelief from the industry.
The start-up paused car sales at the start of the lockdown when it was concerned for staff and customer welfare. However, it says it has now overcome those issues and has started to sell and deliver cars across the country again, claiming mostly to key workers.
Car Dealer has published an investigation piece into whether it’s right or wrong to be delivering cars during the lockdown, which you can read by clicking here.
£1.25bn package to help innovation firms
A £1.25bn package is being launched to help protect the UK’s innovation sector during the coronavirus emergency. Small and medium-sized firms specialising in research and development will be eligible for access to £750m of grants and loans.
The £500m Future Fund will be delivered in partnership with the British Business Bank and will be launched in May. It will provide UK-based companies with between £125,000 and £5m, with private investors at least matching the government commitment. The loans will convert to equity if not repaid.
To be eligible, a business must be an unlisted UK firm that has previously raised at least £250,000 in equity investment from third-party investors in the last five years.
No date set for schools re-opening, Education Secretary confirms
No date has been set for re-opening schools in England, the Education Secretary has said, as he apologised to children for the interruption to their studies.
Gavin Williamson said five tests (see video below) must be met before schools can re-open, adding there are no plans to open them over the summer, following reports in Sunday newspapers they would.
Speaking at the daily Downing Street press briefing yesterday, Mr Williamson said: ‘People are anxious to know when we’re going to relax restrictions. But I can’t give you a date.’
Signs of hope in the housing market
The housing market had got off to its best start to the year since 2016 before the lockdown, but after dramatically falling there are some signs of recovery, says Rightmove.
The website reported that until March 23 house sales were up 11 per cent compared to last year – the best start for four years. Lockdown saw visits to the website fall 40 per cent, but since then there have been slow signs of recovery.
Rightmove said most sellers already on the market, and those with a sale already agreed, appear to be continuing with their plans to move once it has been deemed safe enough to do so. It says stock has fallen only marginally, sales falling through is at the same level as normal and asking prices are down just 0.2 per cent.
Prince of Wales to open temporary hospital in the Principality Stadium
The Prince of Wales will mark the official opening of the temporary hospital based at the Principality Stadium today.
Ysbyty Calon Y Ddraig, the Dragon’s Heart Hospital, is the largest temporary hospital in Wales and the second largest in the UK, providing up to 2,000 additional beds for Covid-19 patients.
It will double the size of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s system, with patients being treated in large tent-like structures and the hospitality boxes.
Around 750 beds are on the pitch, with 250 on platforms around it, and there is on-site radiography, laboratories and a pharmacy.