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Maidenhead marquee company fighting for survival calls for council support

The owner of a Maidenhead business that is on the brink of collapse has called on the council to help keep it afloat.

Stephen Shaw, who founded Tops Marquees in 1992, has lost all of his income during the COVID-19 outbreak as virtually all events scheduled to take place over the summer have been cancelled.

Mr Shaw’s marquees are a regular fixture at popular community events like Maidenhead Festival, Lets Rock the Moor, as well as many private events and functions.

However, because event hire companies are not specifically mentioned in the Government’s official guidance on which businesses qualify for rates relief and grants, Mr Shaw has received no support at all during the pandemic, despite making no income.

During this period, Tops Marquees is still being charged business rates – although the council has offered to delay the payments – and is also still paying rent on its premises in Cookham.

Mr Shaw is now going through the redundancy process with his eight staff members and expects that he will be forced to shut the business down for good if no support comes in.

Speaking to the Advertiser on Tuesday, Mr Shaw said: “I have worked every day since I was 16, I have never been unemployed and never taken anything for granted. If I have ever wanted something I have worked for it.

“Now I am in my hour of need and no one is there to help.

“They have given supermarkets grants and rates relief but they are still open. They are doing a roaring trade.”

Many businesses have benefitted from £25,000 grants and business rate holidays as part of extensive Government measures to help keep Britain’s businesses afloat during the pandemic.

Although the events industry has not been specifically named on the list of businesses that should benefit, official Government guidance states the list is ‘intended to be a guide for authorities as to the types of uses that the Government considers for this purpose to be eligible for relief.’

It continues: “Authorities should determine for themselves whether particular properties not listed are broadly similar in nature to those above and, if so, to consider them eligible for the relief.”

Mr Shaw stated that he is aware of 32 local authorities that have offered support to events hire companies, and has had ‘lengthy discussions’ about possible relief from the Royal Borough, but help has not been offered.

Having had no business since March, Tops Marquees has been trying to help the Maidenhead community by donating its marquees to schools in the area to help provide them more teaching areas that can be used while social distancing.

So far 44 marquees have been lent to 14 different schools in the area.

A Royal Borough spokesman said: “We are administering the Expanded Retail Business Rate Relief and Grants, announced as part of the COVID-19 response on behalf of central Government.

“We are audited on both and therefore have to award funds in line with the criteria set by Government, which covers businesses wholly or mainly open to visiting members of the public such as: a shop, restaurant, café, drinking establishment, cinema or live music venue, for assembly or leisure, e.g. a gym, or a hotel, guest or boarding house or self-catering accommodation

“Government have advised that there is no appeals process but this particular decision has been reviewed by our head of service and director of resources, and we remain satisfied that the correct decision has been made in line with government criteria.”

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