Backbench MPs in UK call on Johnson for ELT support

Without the support, the £1.4 billion industry, which MPs highlight is “on the brink of collapse”, will see many more language schools close, they said.

In a letter to the prime minister, the 36 signatories remind that without government backing the UK risks “allowing global custom to move to other anglophone countries”.

“The estimated cost of providing rates relief from 2020 to 2022 for the ELT sector is no more than £17 million,” the letter reads.

“The chancellor has recently announced a £1.5bn pot for those who have missed out on other forms of business rates relief. We urge you to use this fund to issue clear guidance to local authorities in England to supply language schools with rates relief backdated to 2020.”

The letter from the MPs comes after the sector called for more government support as recovery continues to stumble due to travel restrictions.

An 84% drop in student numbers in 2020 led to a revenue loss of £590m, and the pandemic has forced more than 30 English UK members to close permanently.

“Despite their enthusiasm to re-open, language schools are wholly reliant on inbound tourism and face the full impact of ongoing travel restrictions,” the letter added.

Northampton South MP and chairman of the Independent Education APPG Andrew Lewer led the 36 signees, which also includes 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady.

“Swift action now would help save an industry that contributes over £20 million to the exchequer in a normal year, providing 35,000 jobs here at home,” the letter added.

“At least one of our members is now being taken to court for an £150,000 rates bill, which may put him out of business forever”

“As a seasonal industry relying on inbound tourism, there is a very real risk that many of these businesses will close and our expertise and global reputation will be lost,” Lewer said.

“The UK needs these language schools so they can continue to play a positive role in the prime minister’s plan to Build Back Better after the pandemic and create a truly global Britain post-Brexit.”

The sector cannot see any prospect of significant recovery until 2022, and business rates are a real issue for the majority of ELT centres, English UK chief executive Jodie Gray said.

“[ELT centres] need large, high street premises to attract and teach students. The chancellor promised business rates relief to the hospitality and leisure sector, but our centres were effectively excluded from this despite having had no income since February 2020,” she added.

“A few local authorities chose to support our members but the majority did not – and at least one of our members is now being taken to court for an £150,000 rates bill, which may put him out of business forever. The more of this expertise we lose, the harder it will be for our industry to compete globally once again.”

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