27th April 2020
Good morning. I hope everyone was able to enjoy the weekend as best they can.
I have had a number of calls and emails from members over the weekend about the paper I circulated last week. As I said, this was prepared with following a number of suggestions from members and in consultation with bacta’s Covid-19 crisis committee, which comprises Mancom and the Chairs of our SR committee and Technical Committee.
The response has generally been positive and I have had a number of helpful additional suggestions. I will send round a revised copy of the paper later.
Some members have asked us to push harder on getting the 80/20 rule removed even temporarily. Whilst this is our top ask for the Gambling Review it is our view that to be asking for this now would look all wrong; an attempt to smuggle through a commercial beneficial change under the guise of the crisis, even though it is clearly something that would help AGCs improve social distancing. We have nevertheless referenced it and I have added a more direct but more general request of government to rapidly review legislative and regulatory restrictions on the industry. It is also our view that it would be unrealistic and is not central to achieving social distancing.
Some FEC operators have suggested the menu of options will restrict business too much and will be costly. I fully understand that there will be major implications for any business, but there is not a do nothing option if we are to get open. The paper provides some suggestions as to what can be done to give the government confidence that we can implement measures that keep people apart. If we don’t, we won’t be able to open at all. If members have other suggestions as to what we can do I would be pleased to get feedback asap.
At the end of the day, members will have to conduct their own risk assessments on what can and can’t be done within reason to ensure social distancing and hygiene for customers and staff. Government is looking at this on a very specific activity by activity approach. We will therefore need to pitch our plan so that it is consistent with the plans for those sectors of the economy that will be allowed to open first.
We are meeting with the pub sector this week to start to talk about the plans for pub openings and the requirements for our Division 2 members to allow them to help.
In the meantime we are continuing to lobby on members’ behalf to try and ensure we can get all the support necessary to get us through this crisis.
- Scotland – we have heard of the first council to refuse to give rates relief to an AGC. We were concerned this might happen given the lack of clarity in the Scottish Guidance. We continue to raise the issue as do others, both at Westminster and Holyrood.
- Wales – the Welsh government has refused to provide clarity to councils on the rates relief and grants scheme. As a result, a number of AGC members have reported that they have been refused both. Again, we continue to lobby on this one. In both Scotland and Wales I find it outrageous that a local council official is determining the future of businesses and employees when the intent of the retail leisure and hospitality scheme is clearly designed to cover members’ businesses.
- Supply chain – there is little progress on this. As I mentioned before, the mood music is not positive on additional support and we are now getting return correspondence basically saying this is not going to happen. We keep pressing.
- RV cap – the mood music here is slightly more positive. It is something being widely lobbied for by a range of organisations and therefore more likely to get success. On this issue a member sent me a link to a campaign being run to get this changed. Click here to support it. www.raisethebarcampaign.com
- JRS – a number of specific queries about the operation of the scheme have been fed straight through to the Treasury and we await answers.
- Insurance – the failure of insurance companies to pay out on business interruption cover has frustrated and angered business across many sectors. Insurers have, you may have seen over the weekend, pushed back saying that they were going to have to pay out billions. The only way through this is by arguing with the insurance companies. The wording of policies is critical. The FCA has written to insurers suggesting they take a generous interpretation of policies.
We are meeting this week with the pub sector, the shadow DCMS Minister and the actual DCMS Minister amongst other meetings with various stakeholders. The focus is clearly moving towards the reopening of the economy.
In other news members might like to watch DCMS and the Gambling Commission appearing before the Public Accounts Committee on the back of the critical National Audit Office Report. Click here to link though to Parliament TV. The Gambling Commission will be appearing today at 2.00 p.m. https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/34ace252-86bd-4423-b4b0-355844a4596f.