Find out why the boss of Peterborough’s Pearce Hire has called for Government action to save the events industry

The boss of a prominent Peterborough company is demanding the Government take urgent action to save the events industry.

Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 10:13 am
The Pearce Hire team in London.

Shaun Pearce, managing director of event hire specialists Pearce Hire, based in Reynolds Industrial Park, Stevern Way, has warned that Government intervention is vital to rescue individuals and businesses in the industry, which is on the edge of collapse.

His call comes after the 30-year-old company went from hopes of a record year to grinding halt as lockdown forced the cancellation of events nationwide.

His staff were furloughed and redundancy followed for many.

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Now Mr Pearce says rapid support from ministers must focus on three main areas.

These are the continuation of the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) for individuals working in the industry, continuing furlough support for employees and extending rates relief to event hire businesses.

Mr Pearce, who created Pearce Hire more than 30 years ago, said: “Without any Government intervention the situation is going to get a whole lot worse before we see even the slightest signs of improvement.

“We need grants not loans, business rates relief and an immediate extension to the furlough scheme for our sector.

“An industry catastrophe is just around the corner coupled with a harsh winter for all the staff and crew of this industry and it breaks my heart.”

His comments follow a disastrous lockdown for the award-winning Pearce Hire.

At the start of the year, the company, which provides technical production services and dry hire solutions to more than 2,000 events annually across the UK, was heading for a record 12 months.

It recruited four extra permanent members of staff with typically more than 70 seasonal freelance technicians being employed every year as well.

Mr Pearce said: “We were on the cusp of rolling out our busiest summer season ever when the Government shut down the economy and everything came to a grinding halt.

“The impact was immediate and disastrous for us.

“Even before lockdown was officially announced we had started to get cancellations from early March onwards.

“From then on it was a downward spiral and within six weeks we had lost over 85 per cent of our annual business because of circumstances entirely out of our, or anybody else’s control.”

The company’s packed summer diary began to empty and late autumn and Christmas work is also now being cancelled as fears of a second spike loom.

Mr Pearce said: “We have an extremely loyal customer base and many of the events we supply are on rolling long-term contracts – so planning and collaboration with our clients begins months in advance and we work closely with them as close-knit teams.

“But we couldn’t do anything about the situation and nor could they – social distancing and a ban on mass gatherings basically wipes out our core business activities.”

From the end of March all of the Pearce Hire team were furloughed and since then 40 per cent of the workforce has been made redundant.

Mr Pearce said: “We hope that will be as far as we have to go, and we are currently working very hard to try and ensure it does not get any worse for our loyal, experienced and highly skilled team.”

Mr Pearce said that he had spent hours writing letters, emails and making telephone calls to local MPs, Peterborough city councillors the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and the chief executive of Cambridgeshire County Council but with no results.

He said: “We pay tens of thousands a year in business rates and we have not even been given any rates relief.

“I actually don’t think the local authorities have been given the scope by Government to get the grants to where they are needed most.

“Other small businesses – which the government seems to understand better - are getting all sorts of rebates and support while Pearce Hire, with an 85 per cent loss of business, a strong local workforce - full-time and freelance - an extensive staff training and welfare policy, large annual tax bill, work experience and training engagement with the local college and schools gets nothing.

“It’s just unbelievable and I know we aren’t alone in this nightmare.”

“We are a world leading, highly skilled and resourceful industry and our sector makes an enormous contribution to the UK economy – possibly punching above our weight in this respect.

“We are an industry based on individual skills and made up predominantly of freelancers and gig workers. But all this is at risk.”