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Coronavirus testing facilities supports Sefton key workers to return to work and leads to UK wide roll-out
Photograph with thanks to Sefton Council.

A pilot mobile testing site was set up in Southport offering tests to key workers, and the people they live with, if they have Coronavirus (Covid-19) symptoms. The testing site was located on the Esplanade Park and Ride, next to Southport's Eco Centre, over 26 April 2020 to 27 April 2020. The location was run with the support of the Army and was 1 of 8 successful pilot locations, that ran in throughout the UK, including at a location Salisbury and another in Teesside.

The number of units is being scaled up with the hopes of having at least 96 new 'pop up' facilities operating, which will travel to Care Homes, Police and Fire Stations, benefits centres, Prisons and other locations by the start of May 2020. These new 'pop up' facilities eligible for testing to reach a far bigger area and will give anyone who is eligible for testing a way to return to work sooner, should they test negative, in order for them to continue their vital roles as key workers. The announcement came as the UK Government looks at ways to reach its target of carrying out 100,000 tests per day. The emergence of the new 'pop up' facilities also coincided with the development of home testing kits, are an attempt to ensure the full testing capacity is used.

The Department of Health and Social Care have announced that these new mobile units will now travel to areas where there was:- "significant demand" and will be run using help from the armed forces in mot of the UK, while civilian contractors will operate a further 4 located in Northern Ireland.

Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Council, said:- "I'm proud that the very first pilot testing facility in Cheshire and Merseyside is taking place in Southport. Sefton Council, working closely with our partners across the borough, have been identifying those key workers who meet the strict criteria for testing, so that they can be tested for Covid19 in a safe and accessible way. Our dedicated workforces want to be at work, supporting our local communities, and those who test negative will be able to return to the vital roles they play in the fight against Coronavirus."

Responding to the Government's announcement that mobile testing units will travel across the country to increase frontline workers' access to COVID-19 testing, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said:- "Councils want to play their full part in the national effort to defeat this disease, and greater testing in our communities is a really important step. It is a credit to our armed forces that they will oversee the roll out of these mobile testing sites, which will give us a real chance to safely return thousands of staff back to the front line. With greater capacity to deliver more tests, the Government should prioritise those at most risk, including staff who work in care homes and support the most vulnerable. The Government's testing regime should also be complemented by making use of existing local knowledge and skills on the ground. Where Councils do help test those with COVID-19, any demand on existing services would need to be met by additional resources and funding. We look forward to working with the Government on the detail."

Petition against Gov SBRR grant scheme hits 11,900 signatures

A Petition against Gov SBRR grant scheme hits 11,900 signatures, as desperate SMEs in shared offices miss ₤1bn worth of support. A petition signed by 11,900 UK small businesses angry at missing out on ₤1bn worth of Covid-19 Small Business Grants will now be investigated by the Government. "Put simply, if you don't have a business rates account for your business with your local authority you get nothing. It's a very unfair situation." explains office expert Jonathan Ratcliffe from Offices.Co.UK.

The loophole means that if you occupy serviced office space where rates are included (bundled into the serviced package) you are not eligible for the Covid-19 support. "Small businesses across the UK are absolutely fuming; and at no fault of their own, because their choice of office type dictated whether they got a ₤10,000 cash grant or not." explains Ratcliffe.

Grants are awarded based on Rateable Value; a quick fix in unprecedented times which means that if your office had a RV of less than ₤15,000 you got a ₤10,000 cash grant to see you through.  "We are in no way criticising Chancellor Rishi Sunak, absolutely not, he's had to make some complex decisions in a very short time period, it's just that small businesses in shared workspaces have slipped through a loophole and missed this cash lifeline through no fault of their own." adds Jonathan Ratcliffe.

The Petition is asking the Government to urgently investigate the loophole which is unfairly penalising small businesses typically made up of 1 to 10 employees in small serviced office spaces across the UK. "₤10,000 would have genuinely been a lifeline for our business. As it stands, that lifeline has been dangled in front of us and then taken away due to what can only be described as a gap in the policy." says Piranavan Vimalraj, co-founder of ONE Global Mobility based in a Regus Office, near Reading.

"Using small business rates relief as a passport to these grants is merely giving an arbitrary advantage to some small businesses over others" says John Carr of Carrs Solicitors Limited, based in Bolton.

Others are being tangled in red tape, forced to prove their eligibility by submitting 7 pieces of information such as lease agreements, utility bills and office insurance documents. 1 such tenant is Jonathan Sherlock, Director of Tidal Wave Consulting Ltd, based in WeWork Dalton Place, Manchester, who is pursuing such a claim direct with Manchester City Council. "I've lost a lot of confidence in what's been offered / promised as there's always a condition or a clause will keep a lot of SMEs getting over the line with these funds, grants and loans." Sherlock adds.

Jenny Pawsey who sub lets an office in Oxford adds:- "The grant of ₤10,000 would enable us to… get back on our feet when the world is starting up again. Our business is a very viable 1, and we've been going since 1964, but like everyone our cash flow is suffering."

"We've estimated that the support missed is over ₤1bn and it's all small businesses who are the big employers of the future and they need helping. If we can push this to 100,000 signatures, it will be discussed in Parliament. I just hope this happens soon as many small businesses are being pushed to the wall this month."
concluded Jonathan Ratcliffe from Offices.Co.UK

If like us you agree with Offices.Co.UK and think this is correct that the Government should fix this loophole, please sign the UK Parliamentary Petition by clicking onto:- Petition.Parliament.UK/Petitions. At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament, so the faster they get signatures on this Petition, the sooner those businesses affected will get the help they need.

The amount of grant money that is estimated to be missed out on is staggering:-

Central London - ₤185m.

West London - ₤150m.

South West London - ₤74m.

North London - ₤47.5m.

East London - ₤51.5m.

South East London - ₤59m.

North West London - ₤43.5m.

Manchester - ₤94m.

Birmingham - ₤61m.

Bristol - ₤57m.

Leeds - ₤54m.

Nottingham - ₤40m.

Liverpool - ₤35m.

Sheffield - ₤30m.

Newcastle - ₤30m.

Cambridge - ₤21m.

Cardiff - ₤20.5m.

Northampton - ₤18.5m.

Brighton - ₤18m.

Milton Keynes - ₤18m.

Oxford - ₤16.5m.

TOTAL:- ₤1.089bn

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