Buckingham MP Greg Smith signs letter calling on the Prime Minister to 'save the UK wedding industry sector'

38 cross-party MPs have written to the Prime Minister this evening urging immediate intervention to save the UK wedding industry, a sector devastated by the pandemic and facing months without income.

By Thomas Bamford
Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 11:09 am
Buckingham MP Greg Smith has backed the campaign
Buckingham MP Greg Smith has backed the campaign

This includes Buckingham's MP Greg Smith

He said: “As we start to come out of lockdown it is important that those sectors worst affected are given a fighting chance of survival.

"The wedding sector is in an extremely perilous position, not least given the lead times it takes to get couples special days arranged and going.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

"That is why I am backing the sector to receive financial stimulus, such as VAT reductions, to give them confidence to re-start and fairness when it comes to numbers permitted at events."

The sector will only become financially viable on June 21st when restrictions are currently scheduled to be removed.

Supporting the work of the UK Weddings Taskforce, the group is headed by Neil Parish MP, who commented:

"MPs across the country are hearing that their local wedding businesses are on their knees - and that's why we're stepping in.

"We are now calling on the PM to intervene because the current roadmap and economic support falls short of what is required to get the sector through to June 21.

"The UK Weddings Taskforce has worked tirelessly to put in place a sensible plan for servicing weddings again, but dialogue with the Government has not yet led to constructive policies, and we can't afford to wait much longer. If we want the sector to live happily ever after, we need action now."

The letter reads:

Dear Prime Minister, RE: Urgent help for the weddings industry.

We are writing on behalf of the UK Weddings Taskforce to raise the urgent situation facing the weddings industry and to ask for your intervention.

Firstly, thank you for setting out a clear roadmap last week, which has given people across the country an ability to plan.

However, much to all our concern, the £14.7bn weddingssector is on the verge of collapse, due to the unique challenges posed by pandemic restrictions.

The industry-appointed UK Weddings Taskforce formed with the support of Minister Scully,and with the objective of ensuring the sector remains viable to the end of the pandemic.

However, despite the submission of a credible, safe and informed plan for the re-starting of weddings by the Taskforce as restrictions are eased, sector recommendations were largely ignored in Monday’s roadmap.

Although there is a finish line in sight for the resumption of weddings (June 21 at the earliest) the hurdles to get there are insurmountable for many businesses, threatening 400,000 jobs in 60,000 businesses, as well as refunds for couples, and tax receipts for theTreasury.

The sector is now in Quarter 6 of low-season or closed business.

And when lockdown is eased from April 12( at the earliest) weddings will be permitted for 15 guests only, rising to 30 in mid-May.

These numbers are the same as they were last summer, despite the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy being made aware by the UK Weddings Taskforce that only 50 or more guests is commercially viable across the sector.

Whilst indoor events from May 17 are permitted with 1,000 people, or 50% capacity, wedding venues will only be able to host up to 30 guests for those five weeks, keeping the industry at a reduced capacity and commercially unviable for a key part of the season.

Wedding venues want to work with the Government and demonstrate they are safe.

The Taskforce believe Covid-19 compliance is easier to manage than in other hospitality settings with attendees known in advance who have vested interests in the wellbeing of each other.

Every wedding is safely and meticulously planned with the completion of a ‘Covid Risk Assessment’, including adherence to social distancing measures, capacity limits, cleaning and hygiene.

All event attendance is readily available for NHS Test and Trace. And yet, having worked tirelessly for thousands of hours to make their case, the Government appears content to allow the sector to collapse - despite it being in the enviable position of retaining guaranteed businesses if it can get to Step 4.

Indeed with the backlog, there are over500,000 weddings to service in the first 12 months of reopening, worth £25 billion.

With a cash-flow crisis, no access to many of the support measures wider hospitality has benefited from (such as the 5% VAT rate and business rates relief), and with many staff unable to be furloughed due to the demands of multiple cancellations, postponements, and maintaining venues infrastructure, the sector urgently needs assistance.

Over three-quarters of wedding businesses have reported losses to the Weddings Taskforce of between 76% –100% with many now on the verge of collapse.

This will cause further delays to weddings and a disaster in refunds for the majority of couples, as well as job losses too.

That’s why we are proposing:

1.A cash grant of £880 million to be accessed as soon as possible

2.A temporary VAT reduction to 5% and business rates exemption available to other sectors be extended to all wedding businesses and until April 2022/3.

3.Parity with other events permitted at 50% capacity in Step 3-4.

4.That wedding businesses are recognised as LSRG (closed) until numbers of 50+ are permitted

5.That weddings are included in Step 2 testing piloting testing schemes. In a normal year the value of weddings outrank other industries such as live sports and the arts without requiring the assistance of grants and the public purse.

We appreciate the lengths the Government has gone to support businesses and people in very difficult circumstances, however we would ask for one final push to ensure wedding businesses survive to June 21.

We are grateful for your attention on this matter and would appreciate a meeting with you to discuss what urgent additional measures of support can be provided.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Parish MP

Rt Hon. Andrew Mitchell MP

Sir Roger Gale MP

Rt Hon. Caroline Nokes MP

Ed Timpson CBE MP

Rt Hon. Ben Bradshaw MP

Rt Hon. Karen Bradley MP

Rt Hon. Dame Diana Johnson MP

Rt Hon. John Spellar MP

Sir Peter Bottomley MP

Julian Knight MP

Rt Hon. Esther McVey MP

Sir Bob Neil MP

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP

Sarah Olney MP

Steve Brine MP

Andrew Selous MP

Virendra Sharma MP

Christine Jardine MP

Barbara Keeley MP

Richard Drax MP

Ben Lake MP

Iain Paisley MP

Munira Wilson MP