The tourism minister has said that Local Authorities should provide grant funding to event businesses, in what will be viewed as a welcome intervention by many in the events industry who have so far been turned down.
During a Parliamentary debate on Golf Tourism on 27 January, the tourism minister Nigel Huddleston MP (left) said that he had received reports that many businesses which were not explicitly mentioned in guidance has been turned down. This was vindicated in February after the Event Industry Alliance (EIA) launched a Freedom of Information request to all 314 English Local Authorities asking them to confirm how much they have paid out as part of the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) scheme. As of 24 February, only 128 had fulfilled their legal obligation to respond.
The responses to date reveal that £1.6bn worth of grants remain unpaid, and the tourism minister’s intervention comes days after the Government said it is to investigate why Local Authorities have failed to release the grants to events businesses.
An investigation by the EIA (an alliance made up of the AEO, AEV and ESSA) found that 82.5% of the total funds given by the UK Government to councils had not yet been paid, despite the funds being issued on 31 October 2020.
“I have received a number of reports that some tourism-related businesses, which might not be ratepayers and are not explicitly mentioned in the guidance on these grant schemes, are being deemed ineligible by some local authorities,” Huddleston said.
Although the fund is discretionary, Huddleston urged Local Authorities to consider event organisers and similar businesses as eligible.
“To be clear to those local authorities and those businesses, although the ultimate decision is at the local authority’s discretion, the fund can, and in my opinion certainly should, be used to provide grants to tour operators, coach operators, school travel companies, English language schools, event organisers and similar businesses, all of which serve as vital facilitators to the tourism industry even if they do not sell to consumers directly on a specific premise.
“I therefore encourage and expect local authorities to be sympathetic to applications from those businesses and others that have been impacted by Covid-19 restrictions but are ineligible for the other grant schemes.”
As tourism minister, Huddleston reports to culture secretary Oliver Dowden at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.