A STRUGGLING wedding venue boss whose case was discussed in the Commons has blasted the new three tier Covid rules as “a disaster”.
Mandy Baker-Bird’s fears for her business were raised at Prime Minister’s Questions by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
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She was furious when Boris Johnson expressed sympathy but failed to announce any help for the wedding industry.
And she has hit out again now that the new Covid rules have left the sector – worth £14billion to the UK economy – hanging by a thread.
Mandy, 55, said: “I am a Tory voter but I am furious with Boris. We are the forgotten industry – there is nothing in the new set of rules that helps us.
“There’s going to be no wedding industry left at this rate. It’s devastating.”
‘WE ARE ON OUR KNEES’
In another blow she is now facing a £10,000 fine after cops shut down a gathering at her venue near Richmond, North Yorkshire.
A group of 55 people attended a dinner to celebrate a wedding held earlier this year.
Mandy, owner of Yorkshire Wedding Barns, made sure social distancing and track and trace were strictly enforced and said she checked with local police that the event could go ahead.
She said: “The response we got was – you’d better look at the rules but we can’t see why it should be a problem if you do all the things you do for Sunday dinners such as serving at tables and track and trace.
“But just as the guests were arriving four vans of police officers also landed.
“They at least let them have something to eat but they shut it down and I will now be fined.
“That is another problem to deal with when we are on our knees.
“I felt desperately sorry for the guests. They weren’t doing anything wrong and everything was fine, everyone was socially distanced and there were no problems.
“They were very upset, it was really sad.
“And I am so angry about it. What do they expect us to do? We haven’t earned any money for seven months.
“Do they expect us to sit on our hands and let our business fall apart and our staff lose their jobs?”
Mandy’s local MP is Chancellor Rishi Sunak. She had a meeting with him around five weeks ago when she pleaded for help for the ailing wedding industry.
She said: ”I was expecting that he would champion his constituents but I felt he was dismissive and uninterested.
“So I wrote to Boris Johnson but got no response. I then tried Keir Starmer.
“I am a Conservative voter but I felt that Starmer would be in touch with normal, hard-working people.
”I was delighted when he picked up on my question but it was a disappointing response from the Prime Minister.
“It was particularly upsetting that he recognised the wedding industry is being hit hard but then offered nothing to help us.”
Sir Keir quoted from Ms Baker-Bird’s email at Prime Minister’s Questions last month.
Mr Johnson expressed sympathy for her plight but added: “The best way forward for her and all other businesses in the country is if we all pull together now, get the virus down, keep the economy moving.”
Mandy and her husband Neville, 53, used to run a dairy farm but diversified into weddings and events in recent years.
Before the pandemic they were hosting more than 50 weddings a year – since lockdown in March they have done just one.
Only 15 people are allowed at a reception and in those areas placed in the highest risk tier – such as Liverpool – weddings can still go ahead but receptions are banned.
Money is now so tight for Mandy’s firm she has been forced to lay off two maintenance workers and fears there will be more job losses among her 50-strong staff.
‘IT’S A JOKE’
Mandy said: “Quite a few wedding businesses have gone bust.
“The wedding industry is worth £14billion to the UK economy so I think it is staggering that the Government feel they can just toss it aside and not give us a lifeline.
“They won’t even discuss with us a strategy to increase capacity. Fifteen is a joke.
“If they are going to lock us down then do it and pay us. If not let us earn some money – how can any wedding business make a profit on 15 people?
“The capacity should be whatever a venue can comfortably hold while abiding with social distancing.
“We could easily do 50% which is well over 100 people, which is a viable business and a viable wedding for the happy couple.
“We have worked hard all our lives and we don’t deserve this. We just want to earn a living.
”I was listening to the announcements on Monday praying there would be some good news for our industry but there was nothing.
“It was so disappointing. I don’t know how we – or the wedding industry as a whole – are going to survive.
“There is going to be nothing left once this is over unless they act now.”
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A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire Police said: “On Saturday 10 October 2020, police received a number of reports about a wedding at a venue in Richmondshire where more than 60 guests were in attendance. The maximum allowable under the Coronavirus Regulations is 15.
“Officers dispersed the wedding guests peacefully, many of whom were from areas currently under stricter, local regulations.
“The owner of the venue was cautioned and will be reported for breaching the Coronavirus Regulations in relation to weddings.”