Ahead of the parliamentary debate over business rates relief this week, Bacta urged MPs to seek confirmation that the amusement machine sector supply chain would be eligible for the much-needed support package.
Parliament has debated a Bill which could pave the way for significant rate reductions for the amusements industry supply chain.
The Ratings (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) Bill was announced alongside a new £1.5bn business rates relief fund to support sectors that have suffered most outside of those that have already received support.
Bacta understands the £1.5bn pot will be allocated to councils and applications for support will open once this legislation, which reforms the business rates relief appeals, is passed.
Bacta urged MPs to seek confirmation from ministers that the amusement machine sector supply chain will be eligible for this new fund.
“Government support through the furlough scheme, the retail leisure and hospitality rates relief, and grants has been very welcome during the pandemic. Our customer focusing members benefitted from that support and it provided the lifeline that saw most of them re-open in May. Battered and bruised but still able to trade,” says Bacta CEO John White.
“However, the amusement machine supply chain, which includes the manufacturers and distributors of all types of amusement equipment as well as businesses that hire jukeboxes, pool tables and fruit machines to pubs and clubs, was not eligible for the covid-19 retail, leisure and hospitality fund. Some have gone bust as their business evaporated in step with customers in the leisure and hospitality sector.” Bacta has informed MPs that the amusement machine supply chain contributes £2 billion to the UK economy annually and employs 34,000 people.
“Rates bills have been one of the single biggest bills for the supply chain, which often provides the financial oil for the whole sector to work through trade credit. The financial reserves normally there to provide that support for customers have gone so help, howsoever delivered, is essential. It furthermore stimulates investment,” adds White.
“We hope the Bill can be passed as quickly possible. It is vital that the supply chain is included within this. Clear communication from the Government stating suppliers are eligible will guarantee support for an important sector. The amusement machine industry supply chain has had more than a year of little or no business and urgently needs this money to be made available,” he concluded.
FEAR OF FRAUD DRIVES BILL FORWARD
The Ratings (Coronavirus) and Directors Qualification (Dissolved Companies) Bill will allow a £1.5bn support package to reach businesses – but the bill itself is intended to stop the wrong businesses claiming relief.
The government is proposing to enhance the powers granted to the Insolvency Service to enable it to investigate and disqualify the directors of dissolved companies. This comes after the number of companies closing down after being struck off the Companies House register increased by 743 per cent during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. Strikeoffs from Companies House increased to 39,601 in the first three months of 2021 compared to just 4,695 in the same period in 2020, according to data from audit firm Mazars.
The sharp increase backs up fears of a wave of CBILS and BBLS loan fraud, which the government intend to combat with The Ratings (Coronavirus) and Directors Qualification (Dissolved Companies) Bill – expected to be enacted before the end of the summer.