‘Events industry could collapse unless funding runs until spring’

Business owners have criticised the government for leaving them ‘in the dark’ over whether the Co-Funded Payroll Scheme, which finished on Thursday, will be extended.

The scheme subsidised staff wages for companies that suffered losses as a result of the pandemic.

Organisers have also said there is a ‘misconception’ that the industry was back to normal, while, in reality, the disruption to the summer season has prevented them from ‘building up reserves’ to help them through the winter.

During a recent Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel hearing, Treasury Minister Susie Pinel suggested that further wage support would be administered on a case-by-case basis and that there would be no ‘blanket extension’.

But the government later said there had been ‘confusion’ during the hearing and that the minister had been referring to the Fiscal Stimulus Fund.

A spokesperson said that a decision was due this week about any extension to the Co-Funded Payroll Scheme. However, no announcement had been made by the time the JEP went to print.

James Robertson, owner of The Events Shop, said: ‘There is a massive misconception that we are back to normal when we have only brought in a fraction of what we normally would in the summer, meaning that we don’t have the reserves to get us through the quieter months.

‘There is a danger that businesses won’t survive without financial support to see us through until spring next year when we hope to return to meaningful levels of business.’

Mr Robertson said that even if the support schemes were extended, the government had left the industry ‘in the dark’.

He said: ‘The scheme expired on Thursday and we still have no clue whether it will be extended, which means that we are essentially without any support. The communication has been poor from government who have shown a lack of respect for our industry. An earlier announcement would have been beneficial because it would have allowed us to start planning for the next six months and to begin making decisions about how to manage our finances and operations throughout the winter.’

Rob Ritchie, owner of Stage 2 Productions, said it was ‘frustrating’ that the financial support scheme had ended without an official announcement about extension.

He said: ‘Nobody knows what form of support we will get throughout the winter and who will be eligible. Any support we get will be critical for survival and the government would be foolish not to support industries on this last stretch as we hopefully transition back to levels of business which are closer to those of pre-Covid times.

‘It is still going to take businesses a few years to get back into a comfortable position. We have only had a few weeks of business this summer and many of us need meaningful business to return so we can pay back loans or deferred rent money.’

Simon Harper, co-owner of Harpers Catering, said that he was beginning to receive new bookings but that they were small in comparison to the numbers the business would usually take.

‘A lot of the larger events that we had in the diary earlier this year were cancelled well in advance as people did not want to take that risk. People cannot just organise large-scale events overnight and so it is going to take time to build things back up and that is why it is crucial that any financial support schemes are extended throughout the winter,’ he said.

More than £100m has been spent on the Co-Funded Payroll Scheme so far.

– Advertisement –
– Advertisement –