Susan Tanner, CEO of the National Outdoor Events Association, explains how the organisation has cut through the noise and is making clear cut demands heard by Government.
For all the criticisms that can be thrown at the outdoor events industry, no one can ever accuse us of being a quiet bunch. Equally, the response of our industry to the pandemic and how quickly we have activated should be the cause of great pride amongst us all. Even if the results may not be so much so.
The reality is, this industry got very noisy, very quickly, and I’ve been speaking to a lot of our members about where this noise is going, and what it is achieving. Over the last two weeks alone I’ve seen more hashtags than in the previous two months, I’ve seen new logos, campaigns, causes and even new associations sprouting up to go and take the fight to the enemy.
But the reality is, amongst all of this, we may have lost our way a little. Who are we campaigning for, against and to whom? Who is the enemy at our gates and how are we looking to defeat them?
In short, this is about business, industry and government – both local and national. At NOEA we’ve been fortunate enough to be at the top tables in government when it comes to discussing the implications of, and the response to, our industry when it comes to the global pandemic.
This is all fine of course, but only helpful if these conversations end in a positive outcome. So, what are we asking, and what are we expecting?
The conversations we have been having have been quite pointed, and our first messages have been along the following lines.
As of the beginning of the shutdown, our fate was sealed. There is no other industry that this pandemic could have hit as hard as our own. It landed right at the start of our season and continues to hit as we come near to its end. We knew that our industry was not going to come back until spring 2021, and we began to ask for help to sustain these businesses until then.
Secondly, we wanted the decisions to be put back into our own hands and not into those of local authorities or civil servants, no matter how well qualified. We are an industry that understands safety and risk more than most and is capable of making the best decisions for its audiences.
With these points in place, we were able to underline the severity of our situation and begin to request the support from government that could begin to protect our members. The requests are as follows:
• Continuation of Furlough in full until April 2021
• Continuation of the Self Employment Income Support Scheme until April 2021
• If redundancies are required, redundancy payment to be paid by government due to lack of ongoing revenue from the events business
• Further ‘Bounce Back Loans’ of up to £50,000 per time and to a maximum of £250,000 overall with government guarantee and then payable over a ten-year payback period when turnover reaches a certain level (like student loans)
• Further local authority grants of £25,000 with same conditions as above
• A grant to companies, whose premise’s rateable value is over £51,000, of £50,000 plus rates relief of one year
• A grant to Event Industry businesses of at least 25% of turnover for those that haven’t qualified for previous grants.
• PAYE & NI deducted but retained as working collateral
• Suspension of Employers National Insurance contributions for 12 months
• Retention of VAT Output Tax as working collateral for 12 months
• Public & Employee liability insurance cover to remain in place but no payable premiums for period when business is closed, and staff furloughed
There have been many successes of course, but there have also been many moments of frustration for us. NOEA believes that the response from government has been too slow and that our industry, one of the most profoundly affected by the pandemic, has been left on the shelf while others have received disproportionate care and attention. The delay has cost people their businesses and their livelihoods.
Our job remains to keep pressure on those that can make change, and to do everything we can to get support into the hand of the people and businesses that need it the most.
At NOEA we’re continuing to fight on behalf of our members and the wider outdoor events industry.