The Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA) has highlighted the worryingly inconsistent payments of the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) to SMEs by local and regional authorities.

Previously ESSA’s research revealed shocking disparities between different authorities and what proportion of the available funds had been paid to businesses in need. Today (June 21), in the wake of the delay to Step 4 of the Government’s Roadmap out of lockdown, the Government’s own figures show an average grant payment of just £600 to businesses in the worst-performing regions up to April.

Andrew Harrison, ESSA director, expressed his frustration at the situation:  “How we have got into a position where some authorities have achieved an overspend during this period, whilst others are struggling to break 10-20 per cent of their allocated funds is beyond me. The future of many companies is hanging in the balance, and every unspent pound of ARG is a missed opportunity to protect businesses, jobs and livelihoods. This postcode lottery must end.”

Harrison concluded: “This is an urgent call for UK Government – you must provide clear ARG guidance and instruction to local authorities now. You must ensure problems in the business support system are solved immediately. Businesses in the events and exhibitions sector have been forced to shut for the last 15 months due to COVID-19 restrictions. They urgently need appropriate and continued financial support they have been promised but denied, especially now with a delay to Step 4.”