The following letter was sent to Secretary of State Michael Gove, seeking inclusions of certain businesses, including conference and event organisers, in the rates relief fund. The letter was signed by a number of signatories including BVEP of which EVCOM are a member. It reads as follows:
Dear Secretary of State
Allocation of £1.5bn Business Rates Relief Fund for business affected by COVID-19
We are writing to you to seek reassurances that the £1.5bn Business Rates Relief Fund announced on 25th March 2021 will be allocated to businesses in accordance with statements by Chancellor and the Housing Secretary that it will be targeted towards those businesses most impacted by COVID-19.
Tourism and the visitor economy is one of the country’s largest industries, comprising 3.4m employees in 303,000 businesses spread across in every constituency and generating over £150bn per annum for local communities.
It is also the sector of the economy that has been most impacted by the global pandemic. Estimates by VisitBritain and industry analysis show that over the last two years the tourism sector has suffered a decline in revenue of over 70% and modelling undertaken by DCMS indicates that tourism revenue will take until at least the end of 2023 to recover due to ongoing restrictions associated with international travel.
The decline in revenue over the past two years has particularly impacted the businesses that we represent, including online travel agencies, tour and coach operators, destination management companies, English language schools, and conference and event organisers. These businesses will also be significantly impacted by the new travel restrictions being imposed to prevent the spread of the new Omicron variant, which will further threaten their viability and delay their recovery.
These businesses are responsible for over 50% of travel to and from the UK and, in addition to the significant revenue and employment this generates for the UK economy, their survival is extremely important in terms increasing UK trade and investment as we go forward. However, they have received little in support grants during the pandemic as, although people have been prevented from travelling, these businesses were never required to close. They have also not been eligible for the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Rates Relief scheme, meaning that being prioritised for the Business Rate Relief Fund is particularly important for their viability.
When the Business Rates Relief Fund was announced, the Chancellor and the Housing Secretary stated that this funding would be distributed according to which sectors have suffered the most economically: “The £1.5 billion pot will be distributed according to official data on the impacts of the pandemic on different sectors, ensuring an even and more proportionate allocation of support across England based on the economic impacts of COVID-19.”
As the businesses that we represent have been, and continue to be, among the most impacted by COVID-19, we are therefore asking for your reassurance that this funding will be allocated to local authorities on the basis of:
- The business sectors that official data show have been most impacted by COVID-19 (and including online travel agencies, tour and coach operators, destination management companies, English language schools, and conference and event organisers)
- The number of businesses in these sectors that councils have in their area
In addition, we would like confirmation that the corresponding guidance to local authorities will:
- Include clear instructions requiring them to prioritise businesses in these sectors that can demonstrate significant loss of revenue
- Enable eligible businesses to claim relief from business rates for any period from March 2020 through to March 2023
We look forward to your confirmation that the funding will be allocated on this basis.
The signatories are as follows:
Mark Tanzer – CEO – ABTA – the Travel Association
Tom Jenkins – CEO – ETOA
Joss Croft – CEO – UKinbound
Huan Japes – Director – English UK
Phil Smith – Coaching Manager – CPT-UK
Robert Shaw – Chairman – Coach Tourism Association
Simon Hughes – CEO – Business Visitors and Events Partnership
Richard Smith – Managing Director – Road Haulage Association
Kurt Janson – Director – Tourism Alliance
Emma English – Executive Director – BETA