Monday 27 April 2020 5:33 pm

UK events industry calls for access to government support amid business collapse fears

Save our SMEs

The UK events industry has urged the government to provide clarification on the financial support available for the sector, amid concerns that thousands of businesses could collapse over the next three months.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed in the House of Commons last month that event hire firms are eligible for the business rates holiday and retail, hospitality and leisure grants announced for the wider sector.

Read more: More than 1m hospitality jobs at risk without extra government support, industry warns

However, written guidance to local authorities is unclear and many companies that operate out of commercial premises have had their applications for financial support rejected.

Research by the Business Visits and Events Partnership and the Events Industry Forum found that most applicants had been rejected, with 60 per cent of businesses on the brink of collapsing within three months. 

“Our industry is on its knees,” Jim Winship, secretary of the Events Industry Forum, said. 

“We urgently need the government to confirm to local authorities that all event organisers and suppliers to our industry are eligible for the hospitality and leisure grants – that will give an immediate lifeline for many.”

Siobhain McDonagh, the MP for Mitcham and Morden, has written to the chancellor asking him to provide clarification to local authorities. 

“It is a point of frustration for my constituent and other events businesses, who have found themselves unable to secure much-needed financial support at this very difficult time, that the written guidance that appears to have been issued to local authorities is at odds with statements made upon the introduction of the retail, hospitality and leisure grant,” McDonagh said. 

All gatherings, including weddings, have been banned under the UK’s coronavirus lockdown and social distancing measures are expected to remain in place after restrictions are relaxed.

South London-based florist Larry Walshe Studios has had all work cancelled until October, but was unable to access financial support through the council. 

“We [events businesses] are the worst affected in this scenario, our income has been completely eradicated,” Walshe told City A.M. 

The firm works on a seasonal basis, and was gearing up for its busiest period when coronavirus hit. The company could now be left waiting until May next year for business to pick up again. 

Meanwhile, Jessica Gray, event director at Oxygen Events, said the company could collapse without access to government support.

The Mitcham-based event hire company, which worked on President Obama’s last official engagement in the UK, directly employs 15 staff and provides work for hundreds of freelancers. 

“With zero income and no prospect of any income for the rest of the year we need financial support,” Gray said. 

Read more: Furloughed hospitality workers could lose ‘up to 40 per cent’ of wages

“Furlough has allowed us to avoid redundancies at this moment in time, but our premises and business rate costs will soon force us to make this horrible decision, forcing people to be out of work for no fault of their own. 

“Following that our next step would be to close the business completely.”

She added: “We are not alone in this and without the promised grants and business rate relief, London will soon see a collapsed events industry, having a far wider effect than just our own immediate business.”