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Must-read: KDM Events director’s impassioned letter to MP

KDM Events director Kevin Davies has written an impassioned letter to his MP outlining the devastating effects that Covid-19 is having on the company and the wider events sector.

Davies wrote to Sir Bill Cash, the Conservative MP for Stone, to outline the company’s 99 per cent fall in turnover in the last six months – previously an unthinkable outcome, but now very much the reality facing businesses across the meetings and events industry.

At the beginning of 2020 KDM Events employed 26 people, turned over £2 million and was profitable and completely debt free. In February it won Best UK Event Provider at the M&IT Awards for the fourth consecutive year.

Since lockdown reopening on 1st September, a promising start for the business has been completely eroded with the latest restrictions leading to the cancellation of all in-person events for the foreseeable future, as companies lack the confidence to be seen to gather their employees, or to be able to plan ahead.

Davies said that the company could have been cynical and made all staff redundant in August, having used the furlough scheme to pay their notice periods and with a view to rebuilding once the present crisis is over.

However, KDM Events chose not to do that, making the decision to pay staff and overheads at 40 per cent until spring, when the company hopes that events will once again be viable.

Davies said that the decision to retain staff was down to “the irreplaceable knowledge and experience businesses like ours need to carry the economy forward once this crisis has passed.”

He added that businesses need a road map to plan, castigating the lack of direction in government strategy.

He said: “There has been no explanation of Government strategy and the Chancellor seems to be telling us to get on with it whilst the PM tells us to hide behind the curtains. We need some sense of direction.

“Whilst Government and the public sector work on the precautionary principle the private sector works on the basis of ‘get it done’ and that balance needs to be restored if the private sector is to generate the revenue the public sector craves.”

“I’m afraid the present scattergun approach seemingly created on the hoof and without explanation will only lead to contempt and civil disobedience as we (myself included) stretch the rules to suit our personal circumstances.

“Can I please ask that we have a clear Covid policy, a clear economic strategy and a business support scheme which helps get business going and lays the framework so that as we emerge from this mess we are ready and prepared to both grasp the opportunities and face the challenges ahead.”

Read the full letter below:

Dear Sir Bill,

Further to our conversation at the Stone Constituency AGM last Friday concerning the Chancellor’s Job Support Scheme you asked that I write to you.

Whilst the original Furlough Scheme was widely welcomed and its tapering made perfect sense as the economy slowly opened however tightening it just as further social restrictions are put in place lacks logic.

In February our business KDM Events again won a major national award when, for the fourth consecutive year, we were voted by our customers and peers as Best UK Event Provider.

We employed 26 people, turned over £2m pa, were profitable and completely debt free – we own our premises, vehicles and all assets outright and we were growing steadily.

As we approached lockdown our work for the year started cancelling and all events and conferences have now been indefinitely postponed. Since lockdown our turnover has been less than £10,000. A fall of 99% in just six months.

The only support from the state has been a grant of £8,320.90 from Stoke-on-Trent City Council – less than the amount of Business Rates we have paid them in the same period!

Staff were sent home just before lockdown and were paid in full for March, April and May and at 80% from June and will be so until 31 October. Sadly, we had to make seven very good people redundant in August as there would be no work for them until well after our business sector is able to restart work.

Staff returned to work, for just two days per week, in September to maintain contact with past clients and in anticipation of a gradual pick up in activity to Christmas. There were signs of life then the new restrictions were introduced and businesses were again afraid of getting people together. The green shoots died.

Under the Jobs Support Scheme in the Winter Economy Plan we would have to pay our staff 60% of their usual salary instead of the 40% they are working for. In addition we would be covering NICs and Pension Contributions. And we would be doing this without any income due to the most recent change in Government policy.

We have sufficient resources to be able to pay overheads and staff costs at 40% until Spring when we hope that our staff will once again be able to do productive work. To pay 60% salary and all other overheads without being able to generate income is simply not financially possible.

Our staff therefore will therefore receive just 40% of their salaries rather than the 80% they would have received under the scheme. They understand this and accept this as an alternative to redundancy and hope to top up their income with other part-time work until they can again work with us full-time.

The Chancellor believes that these jobs and this business are not viable. He is wrong. We could have been cynical and made all staff redundant in August having used the furlough scheme to pay their notice periods and re-build once the present crisis is over.

We chose not to do so as most of our staff have been with us for between seven and up to twenty years and have the irreplaceable knowledge and experience businesses like ours need to carry the economy forward once this crisis has passed. Equally they have faith in us, we have faith in them and we cannot treat that loyalty lightly.

There were plenty of non-viable businesses out there when the initial furlough scheme was announced. A simple assessment on a business by business basis to ensure that support goes to those that have a future and catch those businesses that do not fall into the simple categories Westminster understands could have been made then – as indeed it could be now. It is not too late to fine tune what is otherwise a good scheme.

We also need Government support for sector initiatives and to that end I see that your colleague Tom Huddlestone is adding his support to a scheme proposed by our industry sector – Meet Out to Help Out.

The Government, by not subjecting itself to Parliamentary scrutiny, rather than taking a balanced view of the health and economic dangers has left itself in thrall to a one sided scientific opinion which seems aloof to and unaware of the broader economic and social implications of their theories.

Businesses need a road map to plan. There has been no explanation of Government strategy and the Chancellor seems to be telling us to get on with it whilst the PM tells us to hide behind the curtains. We need some sense of direction with alternative scenarios dependent upon the stress placed upon the NHS. Whilst Government and the public sector work on the Precautionary Principle the private sector works on the basis of Get It Done and that balance needs to be restored if the private sector is to generate the revenue the public sector craves.

This disease is more of a threat to the elderly than the young. I’m aged 69 and semi-retired but firmly believe that a policy that seems more geared to my needs rather than the younger generations is out of balance. Each of us (or our carer) knows our individual risk profile and we should be advised to act accordingly. With sensible, clear and simply understood guidelines to govern our behaviour our people will respond, subject of course to close monitoring of hospital admissions and capacity.

I’m afraid the present scattergun approach seemingly created on the hoof and without explanation will only lead to contempt and civil disobedience as we (myself included) stretch the rules to suit our personal circumstances. And whilst I might do so carefully and mindful of the effect upon others, I was once young and know how I would have responded then!

Can I please ask that we have a clear Covid policy, a clear economic strategy and a business support scheme which helps get business going and lays the framework so that as we emerge from this mess we are ready and prepared to both grasp the opportunities and face the challenges ahead.

Thank-you.

Kind regards

Yours sincerely

Kevin Davies