John Stergides: “We have been ignored”

John Stergides Supply chain
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Turned down for grants and business rate concessions, and forced to cut back on salaries and increase long term debt through loans – for someone who’s ignored by the authorities doling out the money, John Stergides’ lifetime business is certainly not ignored by those who want their money. Electrocoin has been a major contributor to the hospitality sector, and yet it receives none of the recognition.

 

JOHN STERGIDES MANAGING DIRECTOR ELECTROCOIN

 

The supply chain has been unable to access many of the government’s support measures. What impact is this having on the sector?

We have tried claiming through Government bodies and local authorities, but have been refused. They rejected our applications as they said that we are not a leisure premises open to the public and therefore are not entitled to any financial help. It is having a negative effect and could lead to fewer suppliers/operators/ jobs in the industry.

As far as I’m aware, we are the only industry which is governed by DCMS and the Gambling Commission and it is required to have a license to supply electronic entertainment gaming machines, yet the local governments refuse to accept that we are in the leisure industry.

How have businesses in the supply chain managed to function in the absence of these measures?

We had some help through the Bounce Back Loan but that was at the start of the pandemic without any further help since then. We are still expected to pay the rates for 2020-2021.

We (company and staff) have had to make sacrifices by cutting back on salaries through full lockdown or less hours, to adapt to the circumstances in order to maintain a service for our customers when they were able to trade.

What measures are required to protect the supply chain over the coming year?

We have had to control our cashflow as without an income we have had to use our existing funds. As a minimum requirement, the government and local councils need to extend the hospitality/ leisure financial help towards the supply chain as much as possible.

The supply chain has not been recognised as part of the industry when it comes to support measures. Why is there a blind spot to the supply chain, and how can this be changed?

It has taken a long time for the Government and local authorities to recognise us as being part of the leisure and hospitality industry, and it is still a struggle to get any help from the local Government. The application of Grants that have been made available have a very short time life so unless you know they are available, you miss the chance and lose out again. We have been ignored. The local government should want to help during this crisis but as per usual they do their best to refuse help to all those that need it and will provide the absolute minimum assistance when asked.

The government response has been to point to other business support measures available. What are your views on:

Government support for for self employed directors paid through dividends?

For Directors who are not on wages but receive Dividends, the Government should have looked at previous payments and paid out on an average dividend payout, same as self employed workers who have supplied Y/E accounts in order to receive help.

Bounce back loans: are they lifeline or another long term debt?

The Bounce Back loans helped at the beginning but it has now been 10 months with no other assistance. The BBL’s should have been repeated but now the Banks are saying that they will not give assistance to the gambling industry so it is very hard to apply for new financial grants. The BBL’s should also have a longer repayment term of 10 years. This would help business not have to worry about paying back loans when trying to keep the business afloat without having a repayment worry.

Is the furlough scheme still viable if the industry stays shut until May?

The furlough scheme has been very good as it has helped many businesses avert from closing down and avoided larger redundancies. It has helped those that were able to carry on trading but at a lower scale.

The longer we are in lockdown the harder it becomes especially if businesses can not open to full capacity.

Even if we are able to open at the end of March, we should be provided access to financial help at least with the wages beyond April, until our industry can operate at full capacity without restrictions.


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