With the UK wedding industry effectively still closed for business following the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown announcement last week, today’s Budget should have offered the industry a glimmer of hope through tailored financial support. This was entirely absent without even a mention of the sector, and once again comes as another bitter and devastating blow to the UK wedding industry as it continues to be put at the back of the queue.
Whilst we welcome the extension to the furlough and the self-employment income support scheme, it remains limited in scope as many working in the sector are still excluded from accessing these schemes and this support is nowhere near enough to protect businesses and jobs whilst the industry is prevented from reopening in a way that is financially viable. Arbitrary numbers of 6 – 30 guests until late June is an unacceptable way for businesses to operate and stay afloat, yet businesses will be considered as open and unable to access grants. The industry was excluded from the arts and culture recovery fund and the Chancellor also missed an opportunity to include those businesses within the industry and our supply chain that have been continuously excluded from the reduced VAT rate and business rates relief such as wedding venues themselves – already over 50 venues have closed down since the start of the pandemic.
Weddings are a seasonal business and we are now on track to lose a second year of income during our peak months. This is why we are urging the Government to reconsider immediate and substantial financial support, as the livelihoods of those working in the industry continue to be destroyed by the current restrictions placed on the sector and many will not survive.
Our sector immediately requires:
- A package of support up to the value of £2bn, including a dedicated fund for grants to the wedding sector to help see us through to April 2022. This year, we will only see 3 months of operation during our peak season. The industry therefore needs support during the off season period with no access to grants or furlough.
- Inclusion of all businesses operating in the sector and supply chain in the reduced VAT rate and business rates relief is now absolutely critical.
- A Government-backed wedding insurance scheme to help consumers and businesses, particularly if plans to proceed with pilot events and rapid testing are to be progressed.
- Wedding businesses and suppliers must be able to access restart grants administered by local authorities – the industry is simply not open with guests of 6 – 30. Grants cannot also be available only to those with rateable values/premises as this excludes vast numbers of wedding businesses.
We are an industry that is worth £14.7 billion to the UK economy each year. This is driven by 60,000 businesses throughout the supply chain and 400,000 workers, of which 80% are women. We are a proudly female-led sector whose contribution to the public purse is estimated to be £3.8 billion annually, but many work flexibly and this Budget disappointingly does not support women or the flexible working environment they rely upon.
We simply want to get back to work and if the Government will not re-think the industry’s inexplicable and illogical re-opening timeline, then it must do more to support us if we are to survive until June and beyond.