Covid-19 Update

21st January 2021


Dear Member


Members will I am sure be examining the daily figures for Covid infections, hospitalisations and deaths as closely as I am and trying to devine when we can plan to open.  Unfortunately, things are not clear and Government doesn’t help.  On a call today with MP Nusrat Ghani, a member of the Covid Reform Group, a number of participants all bemoaned the lack of any plans.  I would like Government to treat us as grown-ups and set out what the thinking is.  We all know plans will alter according to circumstances so tell us what you will do in those cases.  We surely know enough now for those to be sensible.  The next debate on this issue (for England) will be mid-February.

Bacta has continued its lobbying of Scottish, Welsh and English Governments.  We have made a budget submission touching on our key asks in relation to business support, a VAT rate of 5% for seaside businesses and the need to support the supply chain, and we continue to press for AGCs to be rightly acknowledged as non-essential retail.  We have just secured a meeting with Treasury on VAT.


Scotland – Chairman, Joseph Cullis and I, met with the Scottish Government officials yesterday.  We pressed hard on the plight of single site operators and explored whether a separate support fund could be created as it has for a number of other sectors in Scotland.  In that regard can single site operators in Scotland please send me any correspondence relating to the refusal by local authorities to give you any support.  We need to build the evidence base that the money is not getting through to you via the discretionary grant funding mechanisms.   We also discussed the best way of getting open in Level 3.  As with other countries of the UK the focus at the moment is absolutely on the public health aspects of this crisis.  We will be writing to Kate Forbes on these issues again this week early next.

Fyi –  I attach a paper setting out the funding currently available in Scotland. (download below)

Support-for-Businesses-in-Scotland.pdf (64 downloads)


Wales –  The fight for support for AGCs goes on with Wales Chairman, Richard Case, this week attending a meeting with the First Minister’s constituency office at which our plight was articulated.  Mark Drakeford will get a briefing from his office on Monday.  In the meantime, Caroline Jones MS, asked him at FMs Questions why arcades were not getting support.  His reply was as usual to say how well the Welsh government was doing in supporting business and all legitimate and legal businesses that met the eligibility criteria would be supported. Hmmm…. what does he think we are then?


England – We have a meeting with DCMS Minister, Nigel Huddleston, this afternoon to discuss the impact of Covid-19 and the value of the support measures that Government have put in place.  We will make the same points as we have previously and invoke DCMS support for our sector in their discussions with BEIS, Cabinet Office and Number 10, with focus on the supply chain and getting AGCs open as non-essential retail.

Members may also be interested in this very clear summary of funding that is available to business in England here:

The bacta Guidance (Version 5) has also been updated to reflect the current lockdown and is available from the bacta website.



In addition to the above we are still pushing for an extension of the rates relief across the country and for that to apply to the supply chain.

VAT – Government has also published guidance on payment of deferred VAT or how to apply for a further deferral when the new scheme starts.  Click here for details

BII – Further to last week’s Supreme Court ruling on the validity of certain Business Interruption Insurance clauses the FCA has published a useful guide on their website.  Whether your BII clause will allow you to claim will depend on your specific circumstances so do please contact your broker for advice.

Pub machines – I was concerned to hear last week that some pub machines were not carrying the age verification message we agreed in 2019 to include on digital products.  Can Division 2 and 4 members please check this agreement has been implemented.  It is an important point as we make much of this initiative in our submission on the Gambling Review and I need to be sure that it is in place.  Perhaps members could just drop me a confirmatory email.

Local Authority Fees – You will recall last year that we pressed local authorities to reduce or remove their premises licence fees given we were all shut.  The response that they could not do so legally was probably correct.  However, it is also a fact that they will soon be looking to set fees for 2021/22 and members should make sure that the Council reflects the fact that those fees are levied to fund the council’s inspection and administration of our sector.  Clearly this hasn’t been necessary, so there should be no or substantially reduced fee level set this time.  Once the decision is taken it will not be possible to reverse it so it is worth speaking to local councillors and officials now.

Gambling Review – A special National Council met this week to discuss our overall approach to the Review.  I am well on the way to finalising the first draft of our submission which I will share with members in due course.  We will hold an all member Zoom meeting in a few weeks to gather member feedback.

Kind regards,