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Ed Miliband accuses government of consigning events to scrapheap

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband has accused the government of consigning the events industry to the scrapheap.

The shadow business secretary said that the “viability” threshold that rules shut-down businesses out of support meant that the government had made a political choice that would see many businesses, people and the economy pay the price.

Writing in The Guardian, he said: “Tens of thousands of businesses and a million or more jobs are in parts of the economy that have been wholly or almost wholly shut down. Weddings, events, conferences, arts, clubs, indoor play, bowling alleys. The list is long.

“The government is essentially consigning thousands of businesses and whole swathes of our economy to the scrapheap.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s jobs support scheme will start in November to replace furlough, which ends on October 31.

At the launch, Sunak said that the furlough scheme “wrongly” held workers in jobs that only existed because of the grant, and that people should instead be supported in “viable” jobs and create new jobs that provide genuine security.

However, Miliband said that this viability test represents a “monumental insult” to event planners and their livelihoods.

He said: “A classical musician who has trained for many years, a small business owner in the wedding industry who has built up a fantastic reputation, an events planner, a live performer, a restaurant manager, a sound technician, a supplier, a choreographer, a caterer. The same principle applies – these are jobs and careers that were specifically chosen and loved.

“Now they are being told they are not viable because they are shut to help tackle the transmission of the virus. It is outrageous. These are the very businesses and people the government has always claimed to stand up for – those working hard and paying their taxes.”

Miliband continued, saying that it “makes no sense” to have supported businesses and sectors such as the events industry in March, but not in October.

He said: “These were viable businesses before the crisis, major players for our economy, and would be again afterwards. If they are left out in the cold now, and then told in six months they can reopen, what will remain of these vibrant businesses?”

He added that simply letting the market adjust would see lost businesses, jobs and higher unemployment.

He said: “It may well be that this crisis accelerates changes in the way our economy is structured, but the question is whether this will happen in a planned or unplanned way. If we allow it to happen in an unplanned way, by writing off whole sectors, we will pay a long-term price.”

Miliband’s comments come just days after former Tory MP Edwina Currie said that events companies should be allowed to fail as “you cannot save all the puppies”.