Meeting with the MP Sarah Olney

Lauren The Blog

“Along with hundreds of hairdressers, I rallied to the call by industry bodies to petition for a cut in VAT to 5% for our industry. The thinking being that this was a rapid-fire way to support salons when they could re-open, and encourage retail and services clientele to return robustly. Save Our Salons UK, the British Beauty Council, the NHBF, and the Hair and Barber Council have done so much to champion hair and beauty, now as individuals we could help by writing to our individual MPs and request help. I confess, I’m astonished to report, some degree of success!

Sarah Olney MP

Sarah Olney MP for Richmond Park

“Fair play to Sarah Olney, who is the Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park area, in West London. She is also Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), and Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport). And she replied to my letter within a week. She made an offer to attend a Zoom meeting along with three local salon owners which took place last Friday. I was thrilled but not sure what to expect. 

“Sarah kicked off proceedings by introducing herself as someone keen in particular on supporting school-leavers, small local businesses, entrepreneurship and transport. Her proximity to the BEIS – the Government department which oversees our industry – made it all the more relevant to speak with her. Happily I was joined on this call by Gina Conway, who owns three salons in London (with two more non-London salons), and two salon owners who have one salon each on the Richmond High Street. Together we could talk confidently about the experience of hairdressers both in our area, and outside, for groups and for independents.

“We pressed home our concern for salons who have not been able to make any money during the enforced Lockdowns. We raised the point that not only has revenue been massively impacted, but that it costs salons and employers NOT to open. Furlough PAYE and pension contributions are a cost, rent, services such as accountancy and insurance continue to apply… it’s an aspect of the Covid Lockdown experience that is rarely addressed in the media. As Gina Conway says, nobody talks about ‘what’s your number?’, ie the daily cost of being closed.

“We talked about the disproportionate effect on women the act of closing salons has made. This hits second wage-earnings, flexi-time workers and families hard. We added comment on the problem so many of us (yes, me included) have experienced with Landlords being inflexible, loans being denied or not coming quickly enough, the anxieties of insurance companies not recognising Business Interruption payments, and how grants have missed many salon owners as they’re related to business rates.

“To be fair, Sarah Olney listened and asked questions and seemed both sympathetic and interested. It prompts me to encourage everyone to continue to try and talk to your local MP.

“So, will this make a difference? As a result of our meeting, Sarah asked us to confirm in writing several points. She has promised to pose questions to our local council on some individual points regarding grants. And she will write to the Department of Health to request more information for us on how we come out of social distancing and the use or need for PPE. These will be important to salons in coming months in order to get clients into the salons and costs for PPE. And she is going to raise the question locally with all business leaders and the council about how to actively encourage a return to the High Street and client confidence in the near future.

“To be active, to feel we have a voice, and to raise questions specific to our industry, this meeting felt good. If anything comes of it, then it’s worth it. And based on our experience, I urge everyone to feel you too can ask to talk with your MP. It might help on many levels!”

Nicky Pope, publisher for Tribu-te Magazine UK, Respect For Hair and owner of Colour World UK

To support our industry hop over to the Save Our Salons website where you can download a letter template to send to your MP, and take part in a survey which is really helpful in raising our visibility with the Government. Click HERE

See Nicky talk with Gina Conway and Andrew Jose on the issues facing salon owners by clicking HERE

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