The Professional Association of Self caterers UK (PASC UK) was established in 2017. The professional self-catering owner did not have access to an association that would represent the sector to the Government and lobby on their behalf. PASC UK is a not-for-profit organisation.
It was formed by Alistair Handyside, property owner and former Chair of the English Association of Self-catering Operators (EASCO) and former chair of Premier Cottages. In January 2021 PASC UK formally took on the reigns to represent the sector in Wales, from WASCO (the Wales Association of Self-Catering Operators).
One of the primary goals for PASC UK was to lobby for a level playing field for both taxation and regulation in our sector. This has been brought into sharp contrast by the burgeoning airbnb type offer where paid accommodation can be offered without meeting basic legal and health and safety requirements. PASC UK is the Secretariat for the ‘Safe and Legal’ campaign that has lobbied Government on this for the last three years. We have now finally secured a Government Consultation in England on Statutory Registration, expected to start in April 2022. The Welsh Government will also hold a similar Consultation this year.
We also wanted to secure a fairer settlement four Business rates. Only 4% of self-catering businesses actually pay Business Rates. This is due to 2 factors, firstly the small Business Rates threshold whereby any small business in England with a rateable value of £12,000 does not actually pay Business Rates, and second a large number operators continue to stay on Council Tax. The 2017 evaluation was a massive shock to our sector with average rises in excess of 25%. This meant that the small number of self-catering businesses that did pay Business Rates were having to pass to Government on average 10% of their gross turnover in business rates. This was unsustainable. Alistair had been working with the valuation office for over a decade to try and reduce this burden. In January 2019 he secured an agreement from the valuation office to reduce the percentages applied when calculating the Rateable Value is for properties with three units and above. This reduction averages 35%. The Practice Note reflecting this became law in January 2019. PASC UK has created guides for paid members to enable them to check their Business Rates and get the reduction if applicable as part of membership.
During Covid the role of PASC UK evolved. We lobbied Government to let us prepare the cleaning protocols so that they were understandable and freely available to all. As a result, the collaboration between Premier Cottages, the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) and PASC UK resulted in clear and understandable cleaning protocols that have been downloaded from the PASC UK website over 135,000 Times. These protocols were also published on the English, Welsh and Scottish Government websites and support by UK Hospitality, The Tourism Alliance and the Wales Tourism Alliance.
We also lobbied Government, working alongside other key associations including the Tourism Alliance, UK Hospitality and the Wales Tourism Alliance, to secure Grant funding and Business Rates holidays for our sector. We had at least weekly calls with Government departments to challenge, question or ask for more detail on the mountain of laws and guidance that was produced over the 16 months of the pandemic.
During the pandemic we have the scandal of insurance companies denying Business Interruption Cover. PASC UK curated and lead the Cottagesure Action Group (CAG). CAG successfully lobbied for inclusion into the FCA vs Insurers court case, that ended in victory for the policyholders in January 2021. CAG has continued to successfully lobby for fairer Increased Costs of Working (ICOW).
The insurance companies also tried to deduct the Covid support Grants from the Government from any pay-outs. PASC UK curated and funded the national campaign to get this dreadful practice stopped. A coordinated campaign under the heading #justpayit, combined with direct lobbying to Treasury, finally secured a U-turn from the insurers and this practice was stopped and deductions repaid to policyholders.
Sadly, the insurers are now seeking to deduct Furlough payments and Business Rates holidays from settlements, so the lobbying goes on.
Whilst all the above was going on PASC UK provided information and data to Government to try and steer better policy, and wrote a free weekly newsletter covering all aspects of the pandemic for the self-catering sector. At its peak it reached over 55,000 operators.
We also supported our Members, receiving over 8,000 phone calls and 75,000 emails during the pandemic. We took part in or ran 30+ free webinars giving support and advice to owners and have been asked to join various Government groups to advise on impact on the sector.
Alistair has been on the TV, the Radio and the media throughout the crisis pushing for more Government support and understanding of the impact of the pandemic on the self-catering sector. This higher profile for PASC UK makes it a much more effective lobbying force going forwards.
Joining PASC UK helps finance the lobbying that is so important. In England, Scotland and Wales Governments are all planning on legislating the sector. It’s vital that we have a powerful voice to effectively lobby in support of self-catering. Once poor legislation gets onto the Statute Books it is almost impossible to get it removed. PASC UK is well connected with the relevant Government Departments and will be working flat out to try and ensure the best outcome both the businesses in the sector and the consumer.