English UK has joined a broad industry effort to lobby the British government around its current emergency relief measures. At issue is the government’s Coronavirus Business Rates Relief Scheme, a programme which will fully eliminate business property taxes for eligible enterprises for the 2020/21 tax year.
On 17 March, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced that the programme would be expanded to “all businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors.” However, officials of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) subsequently confirmed that the following types of businesses would remain outside the programme:
- Tour operators
- Coach operators
- English language schools
- Destination management organisations
- Tourism and hospitality charities
The MHCLG position is that these types of businesses do not qualify for the tax relief as “they are not premises which are wholly or mainly used as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues, for assembly and leisure or as hotels, guest & boarding premises and self-catering accommodation.”
Late last month, English UK was one of several signatories to a joint letter appealing that MHCLG guidance and characterising the Ministry’s position as arbitrary and counter to Chancellor Sunak’s direction that all tourism and hospitality businesses be included.
More broadly, the peak body has identified inclusion in the rate relief programme as its “current lobbying priority” on behalf of member schools.
“The UK is a world leader in ELT, attracting 550,000 students every year, many of whom go on to study at our universities,” said Interim Chief Executive Jodie Gray. “But most centres were hit early by COVID-19 travel restrictions, won’t be able to teach during the summer peak, and occupy large buildings incurring high [occupancy tax] rates. We believe many will cease trading without this support.”
In the joint letter, English UK and the other signatories called on MHCLG to amend its guidance so that schools and other operators could be included in the relief programme. They argue that failing to do so, “Puts at risk many thousands of businesses that generate a large percentage of the £25bn per annum that the UK earns from inbound tourism.”
Speaking for the British Educational Travel Association (BETA), who also signed the joint letter, Executive Director Emma English added that, “Last year, BETA’s 120+ members served over 36 million young travellers internationally, providing them with study, work and tourism experiences…Without this support these businesses will simply not survive, resulting in billions of future revenue being lost. The furlough scheme has been of huge support, but many businesses now urgently need the rates relief support to weather the storm.”
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