The saga around Local Restrictions Support Grants rumbles on, with some travel businesses being approved for the funding, and others declined.
For anyone who’s unaware, when the government first released its list of retail businesses deemed non-essential (and therefore mandated to close), travel agents were on there.
However, for some obscure reason (which the government has still failed to explain), agents were later removed.
Despite requests for an explanation from TTG and organisations like Abta, a reason for this has not been forthcoming.
If agents aren’t classified as a closed business then local authorities will not automatically consider them for a Local Restrictions Support Grant, worth up to £3,000 per month.
Abta wrote to local authorities in England in mid-November urging them to make Local Restrictions Support Grants available to travel businesses following the new nationwide lockdown.
It also created a template letter for members providing them with the information needed to contact their local councillor asking that they also request of their local authority that travel businesses are included in the list of those eligible to apply for the grants.
Letters were additionally sent to the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to highlight the need for tailored support for all travel businesses across the UK, in particular ensuring that they are eligible for devolved grant funding and other local support mechanisms.
However, with just a week left of the latest lockdown, the message doesn’t seem to have got through to all local authorities. Time is running out.
While it is true travel businesses can also apply for an Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG), designed to support closed businesses that do not directly pay business rates or businesses that do not have to close but which are impacted – it is worth less cash than the LRSG. And after months and months of financial hardship, that’s not good enough.
TTG has heard from agents whose application for an LRSG breezed through, while others have been declined.
It should be noted that Abta is advising businesses to continue applying for the LRSG.
This funding could genuinely be the difference between a travel business surviving or collapsing – why should your postcode dictate your fate?
It is yet another example of the government’s shocking lack of joined-up communication. It appears some councils are happy to dish out the grants, while others are not. Is it the case that local authorities are simply unclear on what they should be doing?
The LRSG funding also appears to ignore homeworkers, with one reporting they’d been told there were “enough other businesses to support”.
A prerequisite of qualifying for a LRSG is that you pay business rates, which homeworkers tend not to. Travel companies in serviced offices may also fall through the cracks if they do not pay business rates. It could be worth these two types of workers exploring the ARG.
It comes as today self-employed agents and others who missed out on government support schemes had hopes of a change of heart dashed.
In his Spending Review, chancellor Rishi Sunak made no mention of the 2.9 million people excluded from Covid support schemes. The figure, confirmed by the National Audit Office, will include self-employed agents deemed ineligible for the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
While there may always be differences in the funding available to different business types, it should at least be straight-forward.
In the worst year in living memory for many, those in the industry have been left scratching their heads as to what they’re entitled to.