Cookham hair salon feels 'left out' of COVID-19 support

COOKHAM 134179-2

A hair salon in Cookham has claimed it has been ‘left out’ when it comes to extra financial support for businesses during the pandemic.

Ross Poole, in High Street, feels as though the sector has been forgotten about by the Government, adding it has faced similar issues to pubs and restaurants such as staff shortages and customer cancellations.

Venues such as hair salons have been placed in the ‘personal care’ sector since the start of the pandemic – separate from hospitality and leisure firms.

But the Cookham salon feels this move, which it says was intended to make sure the beauty sector was recognised, has achieved the opposite.

The National Hair & Beauty Federation – a trade body for UK hair and beauty salons– has written to the Government calling for more ‘targeted support’ for the sector.

The letter states that salon owners ‘remain in a state of tension and uncertainty’, with the past two years having ‘drained’ their reserves.

An extra £100million has been topped up into the Government’s ‘Additional Restrictions Grant’ (ARG) pot, which is passed on to councils to distribute.

Ross Poole has called on personal care companies to be given due consideration when this is paid out by the Royal Borough.

The salon added that hospitality and leisure venues have been given extra support through separate funding streams – such as The Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant (OHLG).

“The recent Omicron outbreak has affected us as much as it has hospitality,” said Darren Searle-Poole, commercial director.

“Since the announcement we have had non-stop cancellations and staff shortages because of self-isolation. It is having more of an impact this time than it did when COVID first came around.

“If it is important for people to go and have a pint, then it is important for them to go and have their hair done. It’s not just about looking better, it’s about clients’ wellbeing.

“We have only just started to get clients coming back in who have not been for two years.

“The Government are financially supporting the leisure and hospitality sector, but personal care seems to have been left out.”

He added: “We had the standard grants but we have not had the level of grants that hospitality have had. It is extremely stressful.

“We have to be positive – that’s our job whether there was an outbreak or not.”

Darren added that bookings are still looking down as the new year begins, and added that a mentor has been taken on at the salon to help boost staff morale.

Ross Poole’s concerns have been backed by Maidenhead MP Theresa May, who wrote back to the salon on Monday, promising to pass on its message to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak.

“I do appreciate the enormous strain our local businesses have been put under over the past two years as a result of the pandemic,” Mrs May wrote.

“In Parliament I have consistently argued that Government must look closely at the impact the regulations have had- and continue to have- on business and industry.”

The Royal Borough’s says that it is ‘awaiting further national guidance to help determine eligibility criteria’ for the ARG.

“Once received, we will open applications as soon as possible and are advising businesses to check our website regularly for updates,” it added.

A Government spokesman said: “The OHLG was launched in response to the rise of Omicron, which saw many pubs and restaurants in particular faced with reduced footfall at the most profitable time.

“However, more than £100million worth of funding is also being made available for local authorities to support other businesses in need, and hairdressers and beauty salons may apply for this.”

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