B&B Blog

News and updates from the Bed & Breakfast Association

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Covid-safe B&Bs are "self-contained" accom so should open on 12 April - delaying to 17 May will cost us £350 million

We believe that B&Bs, guesthouses and hotels operating under the Covid-safe protocols developed last year should be allowed to open on 12 April rather than 17 May.  That five weeks makes £350 million of difference to B&Bs and guesthouses in England.

Under the Government's "Roadmap" to opening for England, in Step 2, on 12 April earliest (p34 of Roadmap document): “Overnight stays away from home in this country will be permitted and self-contained accommodation - those that do not require shared use of bathing, entry/exit, catering or sleeping facilities - can also reopen [same household only]".

Five weeks later on Step 3, on 17 May earliest (p37): “Remaining accommodation, such as hotels, hostels and B&Bs” [can open]

The B&B Association has told UK Government officials that hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses have self-contained accommodation under the Covid-safe protocols agreed with Government last June.  These allow NO  shared bathrooms or shared catering facilities (eg shared kitchens).

The key issue therefore turns on the phrase “shared entry/exit” - which alone makes the difference (in the Government's official Roadmap) between opening on 12 April (if no shared entry/exit) and opening on 17 May.   That difference is five weeks of the Spring season - a huge amount of potential sales turnover for hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs.   Based on the ONS figures for our sector from 2019, we estimate that this five weeks equates to some £350 million of booking value (sales turnover) for B&Bs and guesthouses in England.

On a STRICT interpretation of “shared entry/exit”, ie that guests use the same entrance to access the building, almost all hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs do have “shared entry/exit”. However:

    •    The entrance and corridors are subject to Government-agreed Covid-safe cleaning Protocols; and
    •    Exactly the same criteria (shared entry/exit) applies to indoor leisure (including gyms), personal care premises, non-essential retail, indoor parent & child groups, and libraries and community centres - ALL of which ARE allowed to open in Step 2 on 12 April.

Last April, May & June a vast amount of work was undertaken on this, primarily by UK Hospitality, who developed Protocols for Covid-safe operation for hotels, which were agreed with the Cabinet Office.  We worked with them to adapt these to a B&B and guesthouse context - the guidance document is here.

It is designed to ensure social distancing in properties, and entails radical changes to breakfast service etc to ensure Covid transmission risks are minimised.

So we question whether hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs following the Covid-safe operating protocols agreed with Government should be subject to a further five weeks delay on reopening and lose a further £350 million, simply because guests use the same main entrance?   They pass through corridors cleaned to Covid safe standards, and stay in individual rooms, not mixing with other guests.

The management of such businesses will be ensuring that all touchpoints are cleaned appropriately, on the entrance itself and in corridors to guest bedrooms.
 
Guests arrive via a main entrance, whose cleaning of touchpoints is subject to Government-agreed Covid-safe protocols, before going through a Covid-safe, socially distanced check-in procedure then proceeding to their individual self-contained accommodation in guest bedrooms with dedicated bathrooms.   The coridoors and common ways are also of course subject to Government-agreed cleaning regimes under the Covid-safe protocols.
 
Finally of course, the Government is itself currently placing guests in “quarantine hotels” which have “shared entry/exit”, so clearly this is not seen as unsafe per se in the context of a Covid-safe hospitality property.

So we believe that hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses following Covid-safe protocols should be classed as “self-contained” accommodation for these purposes, and so should be allowed to open from 12 April rather than 17 May.
 
 
* * * * * * *
 
The Bed & Breakfast Association is the UK trade association for owners of B&Bs, guesthouses and small independent hotels.  We are here to inform, support and represent our members. Membership is just over £1 a week and you can join us online here.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Scottish Government "Support for B&Bs Paying Council Tax" fund - operational from Mon 15 Feb 21

Financial support for B&Bs in Scotland paying Council Tax

 

The Scottish Government have just informed us (the Scottish B&B Association) that its new "Support for B&Bs Paying Council Tax" fund will be operational from next Monday (15 February 2021), and that details of the fund have gone live today on the Scottish Government's "Find Business Support" website here.

The Scottish Government emphasise that there is no need for businesses to apply - "local authorities (LAs) will identify those that are eligible".  

They tell us: "LAs will contact the 450 B&Bs that were paid out to under the predecessor fund".  

"The Scottish Government is aware that there may be some eligible B&Bs that, for one reason or another (EG technical issues) did not get funded in 2020, and each LA will also have a ‘wash up’ application process, that will ensure these are picked up.  This will be done individually by LAs."

If you are a Scottish B&B Association member (or member of the UK B&B Association based in Scotland) and believe you should be eligible (see here for criteria) but did not receive funding last Summer - IE you are not one of the 450 referred to above - please email the B&B Association with details, and we will do our best to put your case to the authorities for funding.

We will keep our subscribing members fully informed of any further developments.

 

Not yet a member of the B&B Association? membership costs only around £1 a week and there are many member benefits - and your options for joining us now are here.



 

Thursday, 4 February 2021

Support for B&Bs in Scotland: message from the Scottish Government to B&Bs and guesthouses

The Scottish B&B Association has, throughout the Covid crisis, been pressing the Scottish Government on behalf of our members for financial support.  

Successive recent Government announcements have caused confusion, and we have asked for clarification so we can give you the full picture. 


Government officials have just given us the statement below:



We hope the following information will help provide clarity around some of the funding issues that your sector is currently raising, and the rationale behind the way support has been targeted.  

 

Support for B&Bs and self-catering businesses

 

We are doing everything we can with the limited powers available to us to support the tourism sector and accommodation providers in particular.  Since the start of the crisis we have provided almost £3 billion to assist businesses of all kinds across Scotland, including the self-catering and B&B sector. 

 

We have also provided 100% non-domestic rates relief for holiday accommodation providers, amongst other businesses.  Previous targeted support for the B&B sector included a fund of up to £3 million to support those B&Bs with no business bank account (now closed).

 

All self-catering properties, B&Bs and guest houses that are on the NDR roll, are eligible to apply for Level 4 support from the Strategic Framework Business Fund, which provides grants for businesses required to close by law as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. In most cases this will be payments of £2,000 every four weeks (£2,000 if your business premises has a rateable value of up to and including £51,000.  £3,000 if your business premises has a rateable value of £51,001 or above). 

 

Support equivalent to the Strategic Framework Business Fund will also now be available to B&Bs which do not pay Non Domestic Rates but pay council tax. This support will be paid by local authorities.  Support packages have been designed in response to business needs and have been agreed with sector representatives.  Details of how businesses can access the support will be published shortly.

 

Larger self-catering premises (accommodating 7+) and exclusive use properties will also benefit from an additional £7 million fund to mitigate against the impact of the single household restrictions. 
 
This is in addition to the previous targeted VS led Coronavirus support scheme for self-catering businesses fundwhich allocated £1.5 m (now closed) to self-catering businesses in Scotland with a rateable value of up to £50,999 (and paid NDR) who had not received any funding from any other Scottish Government Scheme following COVID-19.


Hospitality, retail and leisure top-up fund

 

The hospitality top-up fund is targeted at restaurants, bars, pubs, licensed social and sports clubs, cafes and hotels. Scottish Government resources are limited and this means we must take targeted action. We continue to call on the UK Government to transfer the fiscal levers required to enable us to respond fully to the needs of Scottish businesses.

 

B&Bs and self-catering properties are not, and never have been, in scope for the retail and hospitality top up grants.  The hospitality top up grants are targeted at restaurants, pubs, bars, licensed sports and social clubs and hotels as they tend to have more employees and higher fixed costs which isn’t entirely covered by furlough.

 

Business support cannot, and is not intended to, make up for all losses. Funding is allocated to provide essential lifeline assistance and support businesses through to recovery.  We expect the self-catering and B&B sector to recover strongly in due course, and recovery in this sector may more rapid that that seen in other in other sectors.       

 

Island Businesses support 

 

From January, Islands businesses in Level 3 are also eligible for support to the equivalent of Level 4 Strategic Framework Business Fund.  This is in recognition that with the near nationwide lockdown and travel restrictions Islands businesses will require support.  The grants available are based on the same terms and conditions as businesses on the mainland in level 4 and are not more generous.  The Strategic Framework Business Fund offers businesses that are required to close at level 4 a temporary closure grant for every four weeks of restrictions depending on the size of business: £2,000 if your business premises has a rateable value of up to and including £51,000.  £3,000 if your business premises has a rateable value of £51,001 or above. 

 

Scottish Government approach 

 

Each of the UK nations are choosing to take a different approach as suits their unique circumstances.  In addition to the regular Strategic Business Fund support we have developed tailored support to meet the need of tourism businesses, in development with sector leads.  We have also established a £30 million local authority discretionary fund, which is empowering local authorities to direct funding to specific groups or sectors within their areas, including supply chain businesses.

 

We recognise that this is an extremely difficult time for businesses of all kinds across Scotland. None of the decisions taken have been done so lightly. We will continue to review the support that is in place and will keep making the case to the UK Government for more support for the whole economy right across the UK.

 

More information available at Support for larger self-catering properties and B&Bs - News | VisitScotland.org

 

 

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Scottish Govt "Short-Term Lets" Licensing proposals: our message to the Committee

 The Scottish Government plans to regulate "short term lets" by means of a licensing scheme that will also affect all small B&Bs (those in Use Class 9, ie "homes").

Our latest submission to their consultation can be read here.

The Local Government and Communities Committee are discussing this tomorrow (Wed 3 Feb).

This is the message the Scottish B&B Association have sent today to the Convener of the Committee, James Dornan MSP:


Mr Dornan,

May I request that you put this to tomorrow’s Committee meeting, as we are concerned that Kevin Stewart’s letter to the Convener of the Committee may be misleading?

I refer to this letter from Kevin Stewart MSP to James Dornan MSP (1 Feb 21):

And in reply I would like to refer you and the Committee to my email to Kate Forbes MSP [this can be read here]. 

As you can see, we felt Ms Forbes’s reply to a constituent was misleading, and pointed out how.   We asked her and her colleagues not to make similar statements implying that we agreed with the STL licensing proposals.

Unfortunately in his letter above, Kevin Stewart has again repeated the same misleading statements.  This is to correct those, so the Committee can make fully informed decisions.

May I also add the folowing points about Mr Stewart’s letter (using his numbering):

1) Mr Stewart says of the licensing scheme requirements:  “we do not consider them to be onerous”.   We strongly disagree, as our latest submission makes clear.  The requirements regarding EPC certificates, maximum occupancy, sound insulation (changing floor coverings etc), arrival time curfews, reporting etc ARE potentially onerous for micro-businesses - and are unnecessary to impose on rural B&Bs which are not causing the problems the Committee is seeking to address.  These will impose costs over and above the license fee.


4) “B&Bs have always been excluded”:  regardless of what was intended, the wording put out was less than clear.  Mr Stewart's letter points out that "Our 2019 consultation paper proposed excluding licensed hotels and B&Bs and self-catering properties on their premises”.

Many read this as excluding (a) licensed hotels and (b) B&Bs.   I have to say that many MSPs and even ministers have expressed surprise that B&Bs were ever intended to be included.  As soon as we heard that one of the options was to include B&Bs in UCO 9, we flagged this up as a problem issue in our formal consultation rsponse at the earliest stage possible.


5. "Average indicative fees are estimated to be in the range £223 and £377 for a three year licence”:

These figures are misleading, as there is NOTHING guaranteeing they will be in this range - and in fact there will be a equirement for Local Authorities to cover their costs, so depending on what Local Authorities choose to spend, and how many license fee payers are in their area, the fees may be much higher.

Some comparable fees are £800 and more, and the STL Licence fee may possibly reach £1,000 in some areas.  In any case, fees of several hundred pounds are disproportionate for microbusinesses with one or two guest bedrooms - and unnecessary, considering that (as Mr Stewart concedes) the established B&Bs are already complying with key existing safety legislation.

As you will know by now, the ASSC’s very recent survey (also sent to our members)  of B&Bs across Scotland found the following:

  • 88% are rural / semi-rural / island
  • 78% have been operating 3+ years, with 20% over 15 years, one 37+ years
  • 76% are UCO9 (residential) compared to 24% UCO7 (Guest House), which means that 76% will be required to obtain a licence
  • 39% believe that any additional licence fee would render their business unviable, 55% believe it would have a negative impact

  • Mr Stewart’s letter also repeats Ms Forbes’s potentially misleading statement to her constituents, saying:

    "The Scottish B&B Association responded to both our 2019 and 2020 consultations, highlighting that their members adhered to safety standards and that they were in favour of levelling the playing field between B&Bs and properties listed on platforms such as Airbnb.

    As I said to Kate Forbes when she had used those words to her constituents:

    We did give written responses to Scottish Government consultations in July 2019 and October 2020 (the latter a very limited consultation, as a licensing scheme had by then been decided upon).  However you omitted the significant fact that both times, we made very clear that a licensing scheme would be the WRONG way to go, and explained why.   And in October, we specifically warned of the danger of bringing in B&Bs into the definition of “short-term lets”. Again we were ignored.

    Yes we have long been in favour of levelling the playing-field between B&Bs and properties on “platforms” such as Airbnb - and we have made very clear to the Scottish Government (since 2017 when we gave evidence to your Expet Panel on the “Collaborative Economy”) that this “playing field” distortion was a matter of ENFORCEMENT.  To put it simply, traditional B&Bs are subject to the enforcement by regulators of health & safety rules, and properties on platforms like Airbnb are in practice not.  The way to bring the same level of enforcement to both is to bring in a no or low cost accommodation registration schemenot an onerous, costly, inflexible and unwieldy licensing scheme.


    As regards the consultation excercise, as I told Ms Forbes:

    In any case, seeking written submissions from voluntary trade associations is not sufficient as a consultation excercise before changes of this scope and scale - if your Government had intended every owner of a house (ie UCO 9) in Scotland who offered even one room as B&B to be subject to a licensing regime, it would have been incumbent on you to carry out a near population-level consultation and communications excercise.


    Whether the consultation excercise was legally watertight is, I understand, a question worth asking. Unlike Acts of the UK parliament which (generally since leaving the EU) cannot be challenged in the courts, Scottish Acts can be challenged in the Scottish Courts if they are outwith the scope of the legal powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament. But there are much wider grounds for challenging subordinate legislation (ie legislation like this Order made not by Parliament but by Ministers in exercise of powers given to them under an Act of either Parliament). These include procedural impropriety etc. which may be wide enough to include failure to properly consult key sectors affected, particularly in the context of published “best practice”. As I told Ms Forbes and the Committee should be aware, this is something we are looking into at present.

    We ask the Committee to set aside the current proposals pending a review, full economic impact assessment and appropriate scale of consultation.

    Regards,




    David Weston
    Chairman
    Scottish Bed & Breakfast Association 




    Thursday, 7 January 2021

    B&Bs in Scotland: the new 'Short-Term Lets' licensing law may affect YOU: act before 22nd January

    As we told members at the end of last year, we are very concerned at the way the Scottish Government is choosing to regulate "short-term lets" (STLs).

     The original intention was to tackle the very real problems which have arisen (especially in cities like Edinburgh) as a result of the explosive growth of unregulated accommodation on platforms like Airbnb. These represent a danger to consumers, a nuisance to neighbouring residents  - and of course, very unfair competition to B&Bs who comply with existing rules and are checked and inspected for fire safety etc.

    As our members will know, one of our campaigns since 2012 has been to level the playing-field between bona fide B&Bs and platforms like Airbnb. We urged the Scottish Government (including in our original submission to their consultation process back in July 2019) to look at the option of a low-cost, light touch accommodation registration scheme.
     
    Our fear was that the Scottish Government's preferred option of a licensing scheme would be unwieldy, expensive and onerous, and would be likely to have unintended consequences.

    Despite our clear submissions in 2019, the Scottish Government then decided to proceed with a licensing scheme for STLs, and asked for further comments on this last October.  In our submission then, we answered as follows:

    We made a fuller submission at an earlier stage of this process (July 2019), and are NOT generally in favour of the approach now chosen; hence this brief submission confines itself to remaining points within the remit of the current consultation.

    As we understand it, UCO "Class 7" (Hotels and hostels) are excluded from the definition of a "short term let" under 4.7. These are premises used "as a hotel, boarding house, guest house, or hostel".

    We would like to clarify that this means that "traditional" B&Bs and guesthouses are NOT subject to the proposed legislation on short-term lets.

    Should a B&B or guesthouse happen NOT currently to be classed under "Class 7", we would like it clarified that the application for change of use class to Class 7 will be expedited by the appropriate planning authority, to avoid businesses not intended to be subject to these regulations being drawn in.


    3 Please identify any issues with the proposed licensing order as set out in chapter 6, and how to resolve them.

    We have never been in favour of a licensing scheme, preferring a low-cost registration scheme. However, if a licensing scheme has been decided on, we strongly advise that thought be given to making it affordable to micro-businesses. The regulations seem to provide for the relevant department to decide how much to spend, then divide that figure by the number of properties and charge accordingly.

    To us, that is a recipe for over-spend in cost and consequently for very small enterprises to be hit with punitive charges as the price of doing any business at all. That would be unfair, disproportionate and damaging to Scotland's economy and to tourism.

    The main purpose of this regime (we believe) should be to bring accommodation on "peer to peer platforms" - which come within the definition of "short term lets" - into a comparable safety compliance, inspection and enforcement regime as that currently applied to our members (B&Bs & guesthouses). The licensing scheme should NOT be aimed at being financially punitive.

    The license fee for the smallest properties/businesses should be set bearing this in mind, and after consultation with industry representatives - and kept under review. 


    We understood that the Scottish Government's original intention had been to target the new STL rules at the risky short-term lets causing the problems - ie those on the platforms which are unchecked and unregulated. But the legislation they have now drawn up will catch small B&Bs too: ie those of "Class 9" (houses) under the Use Class Order (UCO). 

    UCO 9 allows a householder in Scotland to offer bed and breakfast without planning permission "where no more than two bedrooms are used for this purpose or, in the case of premises having less than four bedrooms, only one bedroom is used for that purpose". It looks as if all small B&Bs in this category will have to apply for the new licence. We are very disappointed that the Government has taken this course, and will be pressing for changes. 

    Our colleagues at the Association of Scottish Self-Caterers (ASSC) - who also represent thousands of existing home-based micro-businesses in Scotland - have similar views to us on the principles of this issue and the mistaken (in our view) path the Scottish Government has embarked upon.
     
    The ASSC has written a very useful summary of the implications for B&Bs of the Scottish Governemnt's STL regulations, which we urge you to read - it is here:
     

    Do particularly look at the licensing scheme's onerous demands such as around EPC certificates - this will be a disproportionate and unnecessary burden on small B&Bs in older or historic buildings.  The ASSC outlines these requirements on the page linked above.
     
     
    A catastrophic "Double Whammy": 
     
    All the B&B owners in Scotland we have spoken to are understandably very concerned that the poorly-drafted “Short-Term Lets” licensing legislation would be hugely onerous to microbusinesses across Scotland, and would be a catastrophic “double whammy” after these very same small family businesses have been so disproportionately hit by Covid-19.

    Our (UK-wide) member survey in December found that on average, B&Bs had their sales turnover in 2020 down 60% on 2019; the ONS showed UK GDP* was down 8.6% in 2020 - so that means that B&Bs and guesthouses have been hit seven times harder than the economy as a whole.   Hence the need for very targeted support measures to aid recovery, NOT for onerous and costly new burdens on micro-businesses that are already complying with health and safety regulations.
    * 3rd quarter 2019 - 3rd quarter 2020, ONS
     
    The Bed & Breakfast Association told the Scottish Government from the beginning that a simple, low or no-cost, light-touch registration scheme for tourism accommodation would enable consumers to be protected and level the playing-field between B&Bs and the currently unregulated accommodation on platforms like Airbnb.  The core problem this licensing scheme was aimed at solving was a very localised one, largely in Edinburgh - but the scheme as drafted will damage small businesses right across Scotland and damage Scottish tourism.

    Some comments from our members show the strength of feeling:

    “There is no way on gods earth we could continue to trade if this comes into force. Plus in these uncertain times, where we have had no bookings for the past 3 months, despite still being open, is just ludicrous.
    If this does go ahead we ( and I’m sure many others) we will have to stop trading, we would be running at a loss.”
    A B&B owner in Orkney

    “This will be damaging to our business and others alike…  Having been closed for most of the past 12 months and only having one grant from the Government to cover our costs, this will truly put another strain on our already struggling business.”
    A B&B owner in Moffat

     
    We hope the current proposals are set aside for a fuller consultation and proper impact assessment before being reviewed and reconsidered.    

     
    What you can do:
     
    1) Please contact your local MSP highlighting the problems with the regulations, quoting as much as you want from the information provided by us and/or the ASSC, noting that one of the unintended consequences of this rushed legislation is that it will affect B&Bs. 
     
    You can find your MSP using the postcode checker tool on the Scottish Parliament website: https://beta.parliament.scot/msps/current-and-previous-msps     
     
     
     
    2) Please also email your views to LocalGovernmentandCommunities@parliament.scot  by Friday 22 January.
     
    As detailed on the ASSC summary page for B&B owners (see link  above), the Committee are asking for responses in the form of answers to three specific questions, which are:

    1. Do the proposed changes strike the correct balance between protecting the long-term sustainability of local communities and promoting tourism and strong local economies?
     
    2. Has the Scottish Government’s defined short terms lets in a clear and correct way in the legislation?
     
    3. Will local authorities have adequate resources, powers and expertise to make a success of their new powers and duties?

     

     
    Again, when emailing your responses to the Committee please copy ininfo@scottishbandbassociation.org and  communications@assc.co.uk
     
     
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    If you own a B&B or Guesthouse in Scotland and are not yet a member of the B&B Association (which includes membership of the Scottish B&B Association), there are many reasons to join us - including helping us lobby against onerous and expensive STL rules affecting your business.  You can join us for just over £1 a week (£55 a year) - click here for details.