16th October 2020
It has been a whirlwind of a week for the industry. We lobbied hard against the curfew and we saw some traction with nearly 50 Tory MPs rebelling against the curfew which is widely seen as an ineffectual and counter-productive measure. Nevertheless it stays in place and our lobbying continues.
As does our lobbying for extra support for the winter (5% Vat, 5% MGD and further rates relief) and for that to extend across the supply chain. At a meeting with Treasury officials today we were told that the position of suppliers has been acknowledged. We are not the only sector making the point that supply chains seem to have been forgotten in determining what support to provide business. I have certainly been making the case to all our contacts.
The main news of the week was the introduction in England of a three-tier system for areas with increasingly high numbers of coronavirus infections. The highest level has forced Adult Gaming Centres to close. We are trying to get to the bottom of this. AGCs and indeed betting shops which are also included in the Tier 3 closure list, are some of the most Covid secure venues on the High Street. Furthermore, the Tier 3 list for Lancashire has extended that for Liverpool by including bingo in the list of venues to close. There is a clear attack on adult gambling venues. This is scandalous as it has nothing to do with limiting the virus whatsoever and whoever has made these decisions needs to be held to account. We are making this point loudly as well as writing to every Tier 2 council asking them in their negotiations with Government to defend their local economies and local jobs and not needlessly and pointlessly shut good businesses and put our people on the dole.
Also of note is that Motorway Service Areas which avoided the curfew restrictions when first introduced have now found their AGCs told to shut between 10.00 p.m and 5.00 a.m. in all Tier 1,2 areas.
Whilst FECs can remain open in all Tiers, subject to the curfew, any AGC within an FEC must close in a Tier 3 area.
In Scotland, whilst both FECs and AGCs have avoided the curfew, pubs have in essence been closed. The strain on our single-site operators in Scotland is unbearable. Again we are desperately trying to get the Scottish Government to both lobby Westminster and find funds themselves to support supply chains that feed those that are closed. The SG has been given £40 million to help support business and is making a further £11 million available to business severely impacted. Whilst it is good to see acknowledgment of the position of supply chains the money isn’t going to go far. Furthermore the support for the supply chain seems to be aimed at those selling perishable goods. Nevertheless members are advised to study the guidance here and apply for grants from local authorities.
In Wales, the same issues for single site operators as in England pertain. Arcades, as in Scotland have not been caught by the curfew. However, talk is now of a two to three week ‘fire-break’. We are writing to first minister Mark Drakeford to explain how that will hit the sector and to demand that we get the support we need to get us through these terrible times. Wales is also stopping travellers from England in Tier 3 locations coming to the Country.
Can I once again thank members for all their letter and email writing to MPs, MSPs, MSs and local councillors. Please continue to do so. It does have an impact and we need to keep the momentum going if we are going to get our issues acknowledged and addressed. It is rarely at the first attempt that we persuade government of the merits of our case.
Finally, one member has highlighted that SMEs that claim the Employment Allowance of £4k should be careful to check the box on the HMRC form to claim it. It used to be automatic if you had claimed before, but apparently that is no longer the case and you need to claim on each pay run.