Joint open letter to MPs regarding the Leisure Sector
We are contacting you collectively on behalf of leisure businesses across the country, including activity providers, karting centres, trampoline parks and climbing centres to highlight the devastating impact Coronavirus is having on our industry, and to ask you to pressure the Chancellor and Government to help alleviate what is quickly becoming an existential crisis for hundreds of SMEs.
We welcome the steps set out so far, but we cannot stress enough how crucial additional Government support is to help these businesses and the staff, supply chains and communities they support.
The sector is worth £600 million a year to the economy, with upwards of 24,000 employees. Across these sectors we service 36.7million activities across the UK, including educational activities for schools, corporate functions as well as family leisure time and individual physical activity and fitness.
We join our colleagues in the Tourism Industry Council, including UK Hospitality, ABTA and the Association of Large Visitor Attractions, the British Beer and Pub Association, and those on the Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group in calling for urgent action for additional support.
Whilst the wage support announced will go some way to help our sector, there are crucial issues not being addressed:
Lack of Grant support:
Most of our centres, such as trampoline parks, large gyms, indoor play centres and climbing centres occupy large premises above the current £51k rateable value for the grants. The size of the premises is in no way relative to turnover or profit; in fact, the opposite is more likely the case with higher overhead costs for such centres.
In addition to this the industry has a high deposit/ prepayment liability as a result of the short notice closure. Whilst we completely understand the need for this it has left centres at risk of bankruptcy though this pressure alone. The leisure sector is not one which has vast cash reserves and we need more support to get through this.
The sector was one of the first to be affected and the seasonal nature of many of the industries mean that the impact of being closed at a key income generating period will have a greater financial impact than would be felt in other sectors. We request that the grant relief be extended to all leisure sector businesses regardless of rateable value.
The majority of businesses operate from leased premises. Members are reporting a very mixed response to requests for rent holidays and are concerned that landlords may instigate proceedings to recover rental payments that fall outside of the government’s assurance regarding eviction. While we understand the message government is currently giving is one of communication and collaboration to resolve these issues the reality is that, unless there is a stronger directive given by government, landlords are not obliged to cooperate and many are choosing not to.
Despite having Business Interruption Insurance, we find ourselves in the position that as a result of a general order to shutdown we are not covered under this. Requests to insurers to review premiums because public liability and employer liability are reduced as centres are closed and responses to requests for payment holidays are mixed. There needs to be a shared responsibility in the response to this unprecedented issue and alongside our colleagues in the tourist industry we request that the government underwrite insurance costs for business interruption for a period of at least three months. This money must be given to insurers now or to businesses direct.
The message from the outset of this crisis has been that the government will do whatever it takes to support businesses through this time, and we ask that you are true to your word. As a sector we understand the importance of our role in the current crisis, but we also know how important we will be once this has passed and for the forecasted ‘bounce back’. Undoubtedly at that time people will want to enjoy themselves again and with the correct support we will be able to do so.
We strongly urge you to make all possible representations, without delay, to help make these things happen.
Paula Partridge – Chairwoman – National Karting Association
Richard Emerson – Chairman – Association of British Climbing Walls
Peter Brown – Chairman – International Association of Trampoline Parks UK
Pete Stacey – Chief Operating Officer – The British Activity Providers Association