National restrictions are in place. Learn what this means if you live or work in Westminster.

A helping hand for businesses

This page contains information for Westminster businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The easiest way to find out what financial support is available to you is through the government's online help tool.

Find financial support at GOV.UK

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1. Leader’s curfew concerns

The Leader of the Council, Cllr Rachael Robathan, has written to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (on 23 November) to ask the Government to seriously reconsider continuing with the curfew following the lifting of lockdown restrictions on 2 December.

The letter highlights the “catastrophic” effect on businesses and concerns over the impact it has had on public safety. This is a follow up to a letter from the Leader to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, on 12th October, highlighting the same curfew concerns as well as suggesting potential solutions. See the letters and accompanying evidence below.

Letter to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (PDF, 177KB)

Curfew briefing note (DOCX, 66KB)

Appendix A: Business feedback (DOCX, 46KB)

Appendix B: Letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care from 12 October (DOCX, 10.6MB)

Appendix C: Photos of overcrowding from 9-10 October (DOCX, 10.5MB)

2. November update on lockdown grants

Business grant payments for Tier 2 and National Lockdown

Central government has asked local authorities to administer two non-discretionary grant schemes and to make payments to businesses from two funding envelopes on a discretionary basis.

The eligibility criteria for the non-discretionary schemes are determined by central government and in both cases local authorities are fully funded for the grants paid.

Non-discretionary “National Lockdown” Grant (Localised Restriction Support Grant - Closed)

All businesses (that are business rate payers) and that have been instructed to close by the recent government regulations during the national lockdown are eligible. This includes non-essential retail, leisure, personal care, sports facilities and hospitality businesses.

The grant amounts dependant on rateable value range for the current “28-day” national lockdown period:

Rateable value of <15,001 £1,334
Rateable value 15,001 – 50,999 £2,000
Rateable value of > 50,999 £3,000

Note: the council has the data it needs to administer the scheme and will be contacting the relevant businesses in due course (there will not be an application process and there is no need to contact the council in the interim).

A non-discretionary grant for nightclubs and sexual entertainment venues (Localised Restriction Support Grant - Sector)

Nightclubs and sexual entertainment venues have been required to close since 23 March 2020. The government has asked local authorities to pay grants for the 4-day period 1 November 2020 to 4 November 2020 and subsequently after national lockdown (during national lockdown the businesses will be entitled to the above-mentioned “National Lockdown” (Additional Restrictions Support) grant).

The grant amounts dependant on rateable value range for “14 day” periods:

Rateable value of <15,001 £667
Rateable value 15,001 – 50,999 £1,000
Rateable value of > 50,999 £1,500

Note: the council has the data it needs to administer the scheme and will be contacting the relevant businesses in due course (there will not be an application process and there is no need to contact the council in the interim).

In addition to the above 2 non-discretionary grants, the government has allocated two pots of funding to be distributed to businesses at Local Authorities’ discretion:

One pot of funding for businesses not forced to close but nonetheless affected by the National Lockdown (Additional Restrictions Support Grant)

The allocation for these funds is based on the number of residents, not the number of businesses per borough and Westminster’s allocation is capped at £5.2m.

The second funding envelope is for businesses impacted while in Tier 2 (Localised Restriction Support Grant - Open)

The allocation of these funds is yet to be determined.

For both the discretionary schemes (3) and (4), it will be for the Local Authority to determine eligibility. The eligibility requirements will be published in due course, and, given the limited amounts of funding provided to Westminster by central Government, we expect that an application process may be required.

3. Legislation and guidance

Everyone who can work effectively from home must do so. Where people cannot do so – including but not limited to, people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction, or manufacturing – they should continue to travel to their workplace.  

To reduce social contact, the government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close or restrict how they provide goods and services.  

Which COVID-secure businesses can remain open?  

  • food retailers, including food markets, supermarkets, convenience stores and corner shops
  • off licenses and licensed shops selling alcohol (including breweries)
  • pharmacies (including non-dispensing pharmacies) and chemists
  • news agents
  • hardware stores
  • building merchants, and building services
  • petrol stations
  • car repair and MOT services
  • bicycle shops
  • taxi or vehicle hire businesses
  • banks, building societies, post offices, loan providers and money transfer businesses
  • funeral directors
  • laundrettes and dry cleaners
  • dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health
  • veterinary surgeons and pet shops
  • storage and distribution facilities
  • car parks
  • garden centre

Which businesses must close?  

  • all non-essential retail - these venues can continue to operate click-and-collect and delivery services
  • hospitality venues; with the exception of providing food and drink for takeaway (before 10pm; and not including alcohol), click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery
  • accommodation venues
  • leisure and sports facilities
  • entertainment venues
  • personal care facilities

Visit GOV.UK for an exhaustive list of businesses that can remain open, restrictions on service and exemptions, or read the legislation in full

Operating guidance

For guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely under COVID-secure guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic, visit GOV.UK. 

NHS Test and Trace QR code posters

Businesses that are open to the public must display an official NHS QR code poster so that customers and visitors can ‘check-in’. It’s fast and easy to create these QR code posters at GOV.UK.

Anyone visiting venues, whether indoors or outdoors, should provide contact information before being allowed entry. Businesses must keep these records for 21 days, after which the information should be securely disposed of or deleted. Any business that is found not to be compliant with these regulations could be subject to formal enforcement, including financial penalties. Find out if your business or venue is required to do this

More details on Test and Trace in Westminster

4. Financial support for businesses

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Job Retention Scheme (furlough) has been extended until the end of March 2021.

Employers small or large, charitable or non-profit, are eligible for the extended Job Retention Scheme, which will continue for a further month. Employees will receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500. 

Businesses will have flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part time basis or furlough them full-time, and will only be asked to cover National Insurance and employer pension contributions which, for the average claim, accounts for 5% of total employment costs.

Please visit GOV.UK site for the latest information about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Local Restrictions Support Grant

All local authorities are awaiting guidance on how the new lockdown grant scheme will operate. Details will be provided on this webpage as they become available from central government.

Business Rates holiday 

If you are a hospitality, leisure, retail or nursery business central government has announced a 12 month business rates (NNDR) holiday for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. If your business occupies a property in the retail sector, or in the leisure or hospitality sectors you will be eligible for the 100% discount on your business rates bill.  

There is no need to contact the council as we will be amending your account and will issue a communication confirming the position in due course. Visit GOV.UK for the latest guidance on Business Rate relief

Time to Pay service 

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.  

These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.  

You are eligible if your business: 

  • pays tax to the UK government 
  • has outstanding tax liabilities  

For more information on Time to Pay, please visit GOV.UK. If you think you are eligible for support through Time to Pay, you can call 0800 0159 559 to get practical help and advice.

Bounce Back loans

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000. The scheme has been extended and is open to applications until 31 January 2021. 

The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. Loan terms will be up to 6 years. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months. The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan.  

The scheme is being delivered through a network of accredited lenders and is open to applications until 31 January 2021. Visit GOV.UK for more information on Bounce Back loans.

Business Interruption loans 

The temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offers SMEs access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to 6 years. The scheme has been extended and is open to applications until 31 January 2021. 

The government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.  

The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to pre-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the government-owned British Business Bank.  

For more information on Business Interuption loans or application criteria visit the British Business Bank. The scheme is open to applications until 31 January 2021.

Kickstart Scheme 

The government’s £2 billion Kickstart Scheme is open for applications for employers. Employers will receive funding for 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions. Help employers apply for a Kickstart Scheme grant: New guidance for organisations who want to be a Kickstart gateway and help employers apply for the Kickstart Scheme is available. These 6 month placements are open to those aged 16-24 who are claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long term unemployment. 

Visit GOV.UK gor more information about the Kickstart Scheme

5. Self employed support

Income Support Scheme Grant Extension

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme Grant (SEISS) has been extended. The November and January income support grant has been increased to 80% of average profits (up to £7,500). 

The grant aims to support self-employed individuals whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19.  The scheme extension provides support to the self-employed in the form of two grants, each available for three month periods covering November 2020 to January 2021 and February 2021 to April 2021. 

For more information on the Income Support Scheme please visit GOV.UK

Time to Pay

If you are self-employed and you are concerned about not being able to pay your tax bills because of COVID-19, you may be eligible for support through Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) Time to Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.  

For more information on Time to Pay visit GOV.UK. If you think you are eligible for support through Time to Pay, you can call 0800 0159 559 to get practical help and advice.

6. Licensing and food guidance

Take-away service

If you own or operate a pub or wine bar, or a dine-in restaurant or cafe then you are now able to operate a hot and cold food takeaway service without going through the usual planning process. 

If you are intending to operate as a takeaway then you are required to notify the council that you are operating but do not need prior approval. Operators may also have to notify their landlords to operate in this way, depending upon their lease arrangements. When the takeaway use stops (on or before 23 March 2022) the land and buildings return to their former lawful use. This timeframe was extended for a further year by the Government in November 2020. See the full details of the announcement.

The council has also issued additional advice for businesses converting to takeaway use - download our guide (PDF, 255KB)

Hospitality businesses

The council has issued additional guidance for businesses in the hospitality sector (PDF, 359KB), as well as a risk assessment for electric heaters (DOC, 30KB).

This guidance document seeks to provide information and guidance to businesses within the hospitality sector. It should not be read in isolation and businesses are encouraged to continue to take note of government’s, other agencies’ and industry associations’ advice. 

This guidance consolidates a number of documents that were produced prior to the opening of the hospitality sector. It has also been updated to reflect the new Business and Planning Act 2020 which relaxed the provision of off-sales in alcohol licensed premises for the purposes of outside service and introduced a new fast-track Pavement Licensing regime

Food businesses 

The Food Standards Agency has guidance for food businesses looking to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sector guidance has been provided to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely in the food sector. 

Further guidance has also been produced to assist Food Business Operators when a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the workplace results in a requirement to cease operations.

Employee support

Mental health and wellbeing

Check what help you could get with childcare costs

Access to Work schemes

7. Safety and contingency planning

Social distancing signage

The council has produced a toolkit to help your business open and operate safely. It will be crucial to the successful recovery of the city that we support customers to follow the guidelines set by government to ensure we do not risk a resurgence of coronavirus cases.  

You can download the full toolkit as a zipped file from WeTransfer (with individual assets) or you can download the toolkit in PDF format (5.7MB). The toolkit contains: 

  • floor stickers
  • food stickers 
  • queue posters 
  • sanitizer signs 
  • window stickers 
  • shop local 
  • full asset toolkit 


The council has produced a detailed guide to support businesses reviewing queuing arrangements for their respective premises, taking into account social distancing measures. Queuing arrangements will need to consider a number of factors and we have outlined what you will need to consider in planning your implementation. Download the queuing guide (PDF, 300KB).

Contingency planning

A business continuity management plan may help you return to ‘business as usual’ as soon as possible.

Preparing your business for emergencies

Fire safety 

With many businesses now looking at reopening, and adapting how they work to incorporate social distancing it's crucial fire safety needs are considered alongside these changes. Visit London Fire Brigade


Water system stagnation due to lack of use needs to be managed to prevent problems upon reinstatement or return to use. Different types of water systems may require different precautions to be applied to manage the high risk of Legionella. It’s vital that all premises with a water system have an active programme in place to control the growth of Legionella bacteria and so ensure the safety of their employees, guests and other people, as well as the businesses’ reputation. Learn more about how to manage your water system

Deep cleaning service and PPE disposal 

We have a special disinfection service for businesses looking to maintain a high standard. The disinfection service minimises risk to employees and customers to provide essential safety reassurance. Where people come into contact with potentially contaminated surfaces, our solution eradicates the health and safety risks associated with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 at your sites. 

We also have a range of information on disposal of PPE and support for businesses around resuming their collections on our Clean Streets hub

8. Other business support

Westminster Business Unit

The Westminster Business Unit is offering free bespoke support if you need help and guidance on a range of issues. Please email,call us on 020 7641 2070 or visit our website at and we will be happy to help you and/or put you in contact with the appropriate team. 

If you would also like to access info on the council's Business Support and Building Resilience programmes please contact the Business Unit.

London Business Hub

London Business Hub provides a free and impartial service, with decades of collective experience. As part of the national Growth Hub network, there’re here to help you find the best possible solutions to your problems. No matter what stage your business is at. 

To help you through the pandemic, London Business Hub launched a series of free, dedicated webinars delivered by expert speakers that have been carefully designed to answer your questions and to help guide London’s small businesses through the many challenges presented by COVID-19. Visit the London Business Hub

London Chamber of Commerce

London Chamber of Commerce is the capital's largest independent business network  

Membership with London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) gives your business the opportunity to build valuable connections, access a host of support services and contribute to LCCI's influencing activities. 

Find out more at London Chamber of Commerce

Federation of Small Businesses

FSB exists to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions. They offer members a wide range of vital business services including advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice heard in government.  

Find out more at Federation of Small Businesses

London & Partners  

London & Partners is the international trade, investment and promotion agency for London. They promote London internationally as a leading world city in which to visit, study, invest, grow and meet. 

Find out more at London & Partners

Capital Enterprise

Capital Enterprise the UK’s startup experts, connecting and energising a world-class entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Find out more at Capital Enterprise

Last updated: 23 November 2020