Whilst speculation about the spread of Covid-19 and its impact vary enormously, we cannot rule out that it may continue, with associated restrictions on movement, into the shooting season. Additionally, the knock-on effects of the virus – both economically and socially – will invariably be felt long beyond the end of the pandemic.
We are therefore unable to speculate about the state of shooting next season. While we all hope that restrictions both on our movements, and gatherings, will be lifted, we cannot say that these will be done in a way that would enable shooting to take place or that restrictions will not then have to be re-imposed in the event of another outbreak of Covid-19. The situation is changing rapidly, but at this stage our advice to shoots is to recognise the increased risk of unsold days, especially if a large proportion of your clientele travel from abroad. It is also important to note that putting down large quantities of birds which then cannot be shot would be irresponsible: a shoot has a duty of care to look after reared birds which includes feeding whether or not shooting is possible.
Every shoot is different, and all shoots will need to consider their own particular circumstances. If you do decide to sell shooting this season, it is imperative that you have a clear cancellation policy in place. Shooting agents, Guns on Pegs, suggest the following:
- For those that can afford it – a fully refundable deposit is the most gun-friendly option.
- For many shoots, that will be impossible, but we all need to give a little, so shoots might consider asking guns to commit 50% of their deposit, with only a small part of that being non-refundable initially. As the season draws nearer and shoots spend that money, more of that would then become non-refundable. Shoots should consider drawing up some terms depending on the time of year.
Game keeping & pest control
Recreational activity, even if it is classed as pest control, should cease. We must all pull together and head the governments call to stay at home and avoid all non-essential travel at this time. Please see our detailed advice for shooters and stalkers here.
However, the current government advice is that you can carry on with your job if it cannot be done from home and that you practice social distancing while at work. Professional game keeping fits this description and therefore duties can continue for the time being.
Some shoots and shooting businesses may be eligible for business support as outlined by the government.
Business Rates Grants
1) All shooting businesses that receive rural rate relief or small business rate relief should receive a £10,000 small business grant through their local authority. If you are eligible, and do not receive notification in writing, you should contact your local authority. You can find out more here.
2) If you pay business rates, a separate ‘business rates holiday’ and ‘cash grants’ of £10k or £25k are available specifically for ‘retail, hospitality or leisure’ businesses.
If you feel you are eligible, but you do not hear from your local authority in due course, do contact them. Eligibility does depend on how your local authority defines your business within these sectors. Find your Local Authority here.
Please contact the Countryside Alliance on email@example.com if you are paying business rates, and your local authority suggests you are not eligible for a business rates holiday or cash grant. You can find out more about that here.
3) The government has introduced a Business Interruption Loan Scheme. This means that the government will pay any fees and 12 months of interest for a loan to support your business during this difficult period. They are also providing 80% of the security for these loans. To access these, you should speak to your bank, or contact one of the 40 accredited providers. A full list of providers is available here.
Help for Employees
4) All businesses, regardless of sector, with a PAYE scheme are also eligible for the job retention scheme which pays 80% of salary up to £2,500 for an initial 3 month period to any worker, such as a keeper, who has been asked to stop working, but remains on the payroll. Find out more here.
5) The government have agreed to reimburse any small business for up to two weeks of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) per staff member that is caused by Covid-19. This includes those who need to self-isolate. Records should be kept, and a note from a GP is not necessary to access this scheme. The details of when and how this rebate will be paid are not yet clear, but we will update our advice as soon as this has been published by the government.
6) VAT payments can be deferred from March 20th to June 20th, 2020. This is an automatic scheme, so you do not need to apply to qualify. If you pay your VAT by direct debit it is recommended that you cancel this so HMRC don't attempt to take VAT during this period.
7) If you have an outstanding tax liability, you can also defer this payment. You can call HMRC on 0800 024 1222 to organise a bespoke time to pay. The helpline is open from 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday.