Abta takes legal steps to challenge Restart Grants for agents

Abta has taken its first steps in a legal battle against the government to challenge the ‘inadequacy’ of its support of the travel sector, in particular its Restart Grants for retailers.

The association’s solicitors have sent the government a ‘letter before claim’ advising of its intention to take legal action. The letter is a requirement for judicial review proceedings and identifies legal issues in dispute.

The move follows Abta’s pleas to government to provide higher Restart Grants for travel agents and extended financial aid for the sector.

In April, Abta began talks with specialist solicitors as it considered legal action on the issue.

It follows Friday’s announcement of a limited restart of international travel by the government, which Abta said would mean the sector’s recovery is pushed back further.

Abta aims to specifically challenge the level of grants awarded to high-street travel agents in comparison with other sectors such as hospitality and personal care, which have secured higher grant levels despite having more certainty of income.

Agents are classed as non-essential retailers in Strand One of the funding, which entitles them to a one-off grant of between £2,667 and £6,000 from their local authority, while gyms, hairdressers and pubs fall into Strand Two, entitling them to between £8,000 and £18,000 depending on rateable value.

Abta’s solicitors argue the government “arbitrarily and unlawfully” failed to differentiate between the UK travel sector and other non-essential retail businesses when providing financial assistance.

Its letter before claim says the government has unlawfully failed to take account of relevant considerations during the decision-making process regarding financial support packages and failed to undertake economic impact assessments to assess the effect of ongoing restrictions on the UK travel sector.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “We would far rather that adequate financial support for the sector could be given without the need to turn to legal action. This letter asks for a formal government response within the next two weeks. If we can’t resolve this issue by then, we may be compelled to issue legal proceedings.”

After Friday’s traffic light announcement, Abta reiterated its calls for financial support based on the fact the sector’s recovery would be further delayed and called for more countries to be opened up using the traffic light system in early June.

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