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Government confirms event venues can use Job Support Scheme, but other miss out

The Government has said that conference and exhibition centres will be able to use the new Job Support Scheme. The scheme, which commences on 1 November, will see the Government pay two thirds of the wages of employees of businesses which have been able to operate since 23 March 2020.

However, no mention has been made of support for those businesses supplying the events industry, or indeed organisers. There are also concerns that the new Job Support Scheme is pointless as venues are unable to earn any income until events are permitted once more.

To date, it is estimated that some 200,000 jobs in the £84bn events industry have been lost.

Responding to a petition, 17 October, the Government said: “On 9 October the chancellor [Rishi Sunak] extended the Job Support Scheme to provide temporary help to businesses that have been legally required to close as a direct result of the Covid-19 restrictions.

“The Government intends that extension to cover those directly employed by business conference venues and exhibition centres that have been unable to open as a result of the further measures to address rising cases of Covid-19, announced on 22 September. They will be setting out more detail in due course.”

The response referenced the pilot events which took place successfully in September, but that plans to reopen the events industry were overtaken by the rise in cases of Covid-19 across the UK.

The statement read: “The Government recognises the extreme disruption the necessary actions to combat Covid-19 are having on sectors like events. We recognise the energy the industry devoted to the pilot tests, exploring how individual events could be run safely and while those tests were successful, they were overtaken by circumstances when last month, in the light of rising Covid-19 cases, the prime minister had to pause the reopening of business events.”

It added that the Treasury is working “intensively” with employers, delivery partners, industry groups and other Government departments such as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) to understand the long-term effects of Covid-19 on the events sector.

The statement acknowledged that some of the events industry has benefitted from support packages, such as deferral of VAT payments and a year-long rates holiday for eligible businesses, adding that some businesses have benefitted from a range of Government-backed and guaranteed loan schemes, despite the fact many events businesses were denied access to these funds.

It added: “In addition, 94% of event venues have been able to make use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.”

In a comment that may upset many of those working in the events industry, the response added that the primary goal of the Government’s economic policy “remains unchanged”. It read: “[We will] support people’s jobs, but the way we achieve that must evolve, reflecting the evolving circumstances and uncertainty of the months ahead. We are determined to get Britain’s economy back firing on all cylinders. As we do, protecting people’s health remains our top priority.”

The new Job Support Scheme will see a company be reimbursed after its claims, beginning from early December. Employers will first need to know if they are eligible for the scheme, and this also ensures HMRC can make checks to stop fraudulent or criminal claims to protect taxpayers’ money.

The response concluded by saying that not all jobs could be saved, but that the Government would “monitor” the impact of its support. “While we will not be able to protect every single job or save every single business, we will continue to monitor the impact of Government support with regard to supporting businesses, individuals, and sectors such as events as we respond to this pandemic,” it read.