Coach operators in England “can and certainly should” be considered eligible to receive funding from local authorities (LAs) through the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) mechanism, Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage Nigel Huddleston told Parliament on 27 January.
While the decision whether to award a coach operator ARG funding remains at the LA’s discretion, Mr Huddleston stressed that Authorities should consider coach businesses, along with tour operators and other sectors including events, as within scope of the scheme.
Mr Huddleston adds that he “encourages and expects LAs to be sympathetic to applications from those businesses, and others, that have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, but are ineligible for other grant schemes.”
Additional Restrictions Grant eligibility ‘long overdue but welcome’
The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) says the development is “long overdue but welcome news” for the coach industry. It and other trade bodies have campaigned for coach operators to be eligible for Additional Restrictions Grant funding. Previously, some LAs have considered that to be the case, but many have not.
ARG captures businesses that have not been legally mandated to close but which have still been severely impacted by restrictions put in place by the government. CPT advises that to receive ARG there is no requirement for the business to pay rates. Coach operators that rent space in another company’s premises are thus eligible.
Mr Huddleston describes the businesses he references, including coach operators, as “vital facilitators to the tourism industry, even if they do not sell to consumers directly on a specific premise.”
‘Contact LAs as soon as possible’, CPT advises operators
CPT is advising coach operators in England that have previously had ARG applications refused to contact their LA as soon as possible. Those that still find it difficult to obtain grant support should consider forwarding the LA a link to a Hansard transcript of Mr Huddleston’s words in Parliament. They can be found from 2029hrs onwards.
Mr Huddleston’s advice to LAs came two days after a group of trade bodies, including CPT and the Coach Tourism Association, criticised the government for its failure at that point to have included inbound tourism businesses in COVID-19 support grants.