Skip to main content

Associations share concerns over the new Job Support Scheme

The Meetings Industry Association (mia), HBAA and the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) have expressed its concerns over the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s expansion of the Job Support Scheme that was revealed on 9 October.

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the mia, said: “While we attempt to clarify what Rishi Sunak’s announcement means for the sector, we fear the expansion of the Job Support Scheme, which begins on 1 November, simply won’t be enough to keep the sector afloat over the course of the next six months.

“The Chancellor’s announcement far from provides the ‘reassurance and safety net’ that has been intended. The doors of many of the sector’s venues have remained closed since March, as the consistent lack of clarity has diminished all consumer confidence and subsequent bookings. While venues haven’t officially been asked to close again, the government has certainly blocked its business."

Longhurst continued: “It is disappointing that support has solely focused around labour costs. The ignorance surrounding the costs to operate this industry is insulting and deceiving an intention to protect employment. We know it isn’t sustainable for many venues to stay open to serve small meetings of up to 30 people, yet it is only in instances where venues are forced to close that they can utilise today’s support package as a means of survival.

“Surveying the business meetings and events sector last month, we know that labour costs account for 57% of the average venue, so when considering the £206,652.62 average monthly operating costs we must ask where the Chancellor believes the other £88,860 costs can be covered with no revenue coming into the sector. These monthly deficits simply cannot be borne by employers any longer and it is astounding that this continues to be overlooked.”

She added: “In June 2019, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport issued the UK government’s ‘International Business Events Action Plan’, making reference to the ‘considerable economic and social benefits’ the sector brings to the UK. With government intentions to maintain the UK’s position as a leading European country for hosting business events, conferences and congresses, it remains staggering that the sector has been abandoned so swiftly and left to fend for itself while mass restrictions continue to be enforced against any form of viable operation and subsequent revenue generation.

“We understand the challenges presented to government in attempting to provide support to all industries, but as neighbouring industries and sectors continue to receive tailored packages of support, we ask ourselves why we are yet to be acknowledged, yet to be respected and why we are being left to enter such a state of decay?”

The MIA will also be writing to the Chancellor to express its concerns for the industry. Longhurst concluded: “In the spirit of the industry, we won’t be beaten.”

Lex Butler, chair of HBAA, said: “While we wait to see the terms and conditions of this ‘legally locked down’ support, and how far this may ultimately apply to our own members, we are encouraged by the Chancellor’s initiative today as it shows a willingness to respond to the impact of government decisions that are having a catastrophic effect on our industry. We hope this is an indication that the Treasury may be starting to appreciate that businesses are closing and jobs being lost because we are scarcely able to trade. What we need next is recognition that, for all those businesses in the meetings and events sector, whether locked down or not, time is running out, and many desperately need help now.”

Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE, commented: “The new support for employees and businesses in local lockdowns is the right move, but it is dismaying to see the self-employed excluded yet again from the government’s thinking.

“Local lockdowns will affect many self-employed people just as much as employees, but as it stands they have much, much less support available to them. If a self-employed hairdresser, plumber or contractor is caught in a local lockdown and unable to work, they are entitled to just 20 per cent of their usual earnings. And there are over a million limited company directors and newly self-employed who are not even entitled to that." 

He continued: “The government must not leave the self-employed to fall through the cracks of the ever-growing patchwork of local lockdowns across the UK. It must extend the amount and the parameters of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to offer targeted support for the self-employed that matches these new measures.”