Panaz founder Tony Attard: ‘If we work together we can come through crisis’

A Burnley-based businessman has spoken about the difficult times all firms are living through and where to go for help.

Panaz founder Tony Attard, who is also the chairman of Marketing Lancashire, said this last week had been the worst week in his professional career.

He had the following advice for business leaders trying to navigate the challenging economic downturn.

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"During this terrible time although our first priority is to the NHS and the sick and vulnerable ,it is essential that business is able to get through this and retain jobs.

Tony Attard

"From my own personal perspective this last week was the worst week in my professional career which spans over 30 years.

"Like many other business leaders, we have negotiated through economic downturns and enacted strategies to weather the storm.

"However I have never seen the world in lock down, when many businesses come to a halt.

"During difficult times there is a sailing analogy that I think is appropriate, if you are thinking about reefing then do it immediately, and that is true in business.

"If you need to apply for a business interruption loan, (CBILS) if you should furlough staff then you should do it immediately.

"Please be aware however that a furloughed employee must not undertake any work. They can take part in volunteer work or training (subject to the terms of their contract of employment relating to competition and outside interests), as long as that work does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, the employer.

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"The Government has not disclosed the punishment which will be meted out to employers who are found to be making furloughed staff work, but HMRC are likely to be strict in their response to rule breaking.

"The Government has already confirmed that HRMC will be carrying out audits once the pandemic is over.

"You should also look at other cost cutting strategies, keep a keen eye on invoices that should be paid to you in order to retain cash flow and check your contracts and liabilities.

"Understandably it has been difficult to make some decisions because government strategy has been lacking some clarity in the first instance, however the Chancellor continues to refine the Government’s approach and that clarity is now available and so business decisions can be made.

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"I am particularly pleased that the business interruption scheme is now much clearer and business owners will not need to put up personal guarantees on initial loans and the Government will cover all fees and interest for the first year."

Mr attard also listed a number of helpful websites:

- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

- Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments https://www.gov.uk/guidance/deferral-of-vat-payments-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19

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- A Self-employment Income Support Scheme https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

- Grant funding for small businesses and retail, hospitality and leisure businesses https://your.burnley.gov.uk/service/Coronavirus_Government_Business_Support_Grant

- The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils-2/