Concerned by the reports of geographical disparities in the disbursement of Local Restriction Support Grants (LRSG) and Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG), the Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA) has issued 400 Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to its members’ local authorities in the UK.
Each authority has been asked for up-to-date figures of how much LRSG and ARG funding they have received from central government, how much of it has been dispensed, how much remains, amid concerns amongst ESSA’s members that there are serious disparities in how local authorities have distributed these funds. Further investigation into reports from individual members and constituency MPs has suggested local authorities may have sums of unspent money, running into millions of pounds, which will have to be returned if they are not dispensed.
Andrew Harrison, ESSA director, explained the purpose of the request, saying, “A major area of our ongoing engagement with government has been the lack of sector-specific support for our members, whose livelihoods have been cut from underneath them. Access to locally allocated relief grants has been a minor respite from these dire times for some, and it’s becoming clear that this process has become a postcode lottery, with different authorities adopting wildly different criteria based on a mess of factors from rateable value to turnover or operating sector.
“Equally, the sums awarded have been, on the whole, insulting. Early signs from the initial response to this FOI is that the average in unspent grants is in the region of £5m per authority. If that continues to be the case, we’re talking about huge sums of money intended to support business being returned to central government. Whilst there are companies out there screaming for help, not a pound should be left in these pots. The time has come to find out the truth of the matter.”
Harrison concluded, “As part of the EIA we have worked with the government very closely over the last 10 months and achieved some remarkable successes in preparing the way for reopening events, but the event industry supply chain is still on the verge of collapse. We aim to investigate these disparities and bring them to light on behalf of our membership, and to provide a basis for our ongoing discussions with the government.”