25th March 2022 – Member Update
I hope members’ businesses have benefitted from the great weather we have been enjoying. It looks like it will extend into the weekend and hopefully ensure our FECs, AGCs and pubs are full.
As we approach the weekend it might be worth reiterating as I did in my last Update that there does seem to be some counterfeit £20 notes in circulation – the principal one seems to be the Clydesdale bank note. Whilst note validator manufacturers are I know working hard to get these rejected by their devices it is worth ensuring staff are on the look out for any signs of fraud and you may be able to make an adjustment to your validators. If you do pick any of these notes up over the weekend please let me know and I will feed this in to the Bank of England and relevant Scottish banks.
Whilst on machine issues, Division 4 has approved version I of the bacta Dataport Standard. If you would like a copy please let the office know.
On the political front we still await publication of the Gambling Review White Paper. DCMS Minister Chris Philp this week said in response to an oral question that publication was ‘imminent’. The official line has been ‘in the next few weeks’ for a couple of months now so I am not holding my breath. With the geo-political situation and the on-line harms Bill now on its legislative journey there must be limited bandwidth within Government but May is looking increasingly likely as a publication date. When within May is another question. We have a meeting with DCMS Officials next Friday and may learn more then.
This was also the week of the Chancellor’s Spring Statement. I sent out a summary on Wednesday of the main points. There were some helpful measures in there but they are dwarfed by the major cost crisis industry is facing. I am increasingly hearing stories of three figure percentage increases in energy bills and inflation is now expected to peak at over 8%. Whilst the Chancellor can’t be held to blame for every economic headwind, he can be asked to think carefully about what targeted measures would encourage industry growth and the economic benefits that brings – we would have liked him to keep the hospitality VAT rate at 12.5% for example, and ensure seaside arcades were covered by it. Similarly MGD needs to be addressed. Rates too is a huge burden and needs reform. We will keep pressing on these and more specific industry issues over the coming weeks.
I am working closely with our new PA/PR Agency, SECNewgate, to build a refreshed set of messages and briefings around our various asks of government and will shortly invite members to join a webinar to hear about them. This will provide a platform for amongst other things a renewed round of member engagement with local MPs. As I have said many times before it is crucial that all members try to build a relationship with their local representative. They can put pressure on Ministers and raise issues in Parliament and will be so much more willing to do so if you have a good relationship.
A good example occurred this week when I was at the English Tourism Week Parliamentary Reception. I had the opportunity for a good chat with Southport MP, Damien Moore. Southport member, Silcocks Leisure, have a very good relationship with Damien which is why Tourism Minister, Nigel Huddleston visited Silcocks last Friday enabling the company to not only talk about their business but also to land some of the industry’s key points.
This was also a week in which bacta participated in the first meeting of the Economic round table of the Covid-19 Public Inquiry. We were one of only eight organisations sitting round the table, including the CBI and Federation of Small Businesses our invitation to join this select panel is indicative of the impression we were able to make during the covid crisis. At this stage the consultation is only about the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference which I circulated last week and to which I encourage members to respond.
Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Act 2022
The Commercial Rent Act has received Royal Assent and come into effect. This provides a legally binding arbitration process to resolve certain outstanding commercial rent debts related to the pandemic. Commercial landlords and tenants encouraged to negotiate agreements using the Code of Practice but, if they cannot agree, the new binding arbitration system can be used as a last resort for eligible businesses. As a result of the Act coming into effect, the general moratorium on commercial evictions ends today.
Removal Of More Restrictions In Wales
The Welsh Government has announced that, from Monday, face coverings will no longer be required by law in retail settings and on public transport, though they will continue to be recommended in public health advice. Also, the requirement to self-isolate will also move into guidance while the £500 self-isolation payment to support people will continue to be available until June.
While the announcement brings the rules in Wales closer to those in England, one important difference for businesses is that in Wales they will still be required to undertake coronavirus risk assessment with reasonable measures put in place in light of those assessments. In England this is no longer a mandatory requirement – although it would be difficult for a business to undertake their required Health and Safety Assessment which out considering Covid.
Next week our engagement switches to the Gambling Commission whose Chairman and Chief Executive will be visiting an AGC and High Street bingo arcade in London. I also have a meeting with the Betting and Gaming Council and will be attending the CBIs Economic Planning round table. We also have a call with DCMS next Friday.
And please don’t forget the next round of Regional meetings start the following week. Details have been circulated and all members are encouraged to attend and contribute to the debate with John Bollom about the future of bacta.
As always please do get in contact if you wish to discuss any of the above.