'Save our salons': Hornchurch salon owner leads calls for VAT cut

Kerry Larcher, left, with staff members Scott Dale and Jenni Mullett. Picture: Kerry Larcher

Kerry Larcher, left, with staff members Scott Dale and Jenni Mullett. Picture: Kerry Larcher - Credit: Kerry Larcher

A Hornchurch hair and beauty salon owner has called on the government to cut VAT for the trade, as it has done for other sectors. 

Kerry Larcher, who opened The Vanilla Room in 1995, has written to Hornchurch and Upminster MP Julia Lopez, pleading for help to keep her salon, and others like it, afloat. 

Hair and beauty salons were among the last businesses to be deemed safe enough to reopen last summer, after the first national lockdown, and Ms Larcher said financial support is urgently needed. 

“From a business point of view, we are being squeezed from all directions,” she said. “The help that was there first time around isn’t there now. 

“There is presumption that businesses, like mine, on the high street will be OK because the grants are covering everything but they’re not. 

“We have been closed since December 19 and the first payment didn’t arrive until last week and we don’t see the full payment until the middle of February at any rate.” 

The Vanilla Room as it looks now. Picture: Google Maps

The Vanilla Room, in Hornchurch, has been closed for over a month - Credit: Google Maps

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Ms Larcher, 46, also told of her “devastation” at having to make four members of staff redundant during the first lockdown. 

In her letter, she has asked Ms Lopez, a cabinet office minister, to support calls for VAT to be cut to five per cent for the hair and beauty industry – the same as for the hospitality and holiday accommodation sectors.  

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The ‘Save Our Salons’ letter reads: “Unlike other sectors who have received significant support the personal care sector has been largely overlooked, despite extended periods of closure and the inability for our services to be substituted or transition online. 

“The viability of our business is being massively challenged and so a reduction in VAT, once we are able to start trading again, will make a significant difference to the survival of our business and is the most cost-effective way of keeping our workforce employed.” 

In response, Julia Lopez, who has agreed to meet with Ms Larcher to discuss her proposals, told the Romford Recorder that the government is “already thinking about how best to support” businesses like The Vanilla Room. 

She said: “The demands on taxpayers' money are huge right now, as everyone understands, but we want to do what we can to help viable businesses get through the other side of this crisis.  

Julia Lopez, MP for Hornchurch and Upminster

Julia Lopez MP has agreed to meet with Kerry Larcher to discuss her VAT proposals - Credit: Archant

“This is why I will be meeting local salon owners to hear their concerns and putting their views on the most efficacious support measures to the Chancellor in advance of the budget, when he will be announcing which policies he thinks will have most impact.” 

A spokesperson for Havering Council said eligible beauty salons and hairdressers can apply for the Local Restrictions Support Grant during the periods that they were required to close.  

Businesses that are not eligible, such as those that rent a space or a chair in a salon, or are mobile, can apply for the Havering Discretionary Grant Fund, which is open until Friday. 

They added: “We realise that some sectors within Havering have been severely impacted by the restrictions and we are currently putting together the next phase of the Discretionary Grant Fund. 

“The government has identified particular sectors including hair and beauty, which have been disproportionately affected and we’ve used this guidance, alongside feedback from our Havering Q&A session to identify how we can distribute the limited resources to businesses fairly.” 

A HM Treasury spokesperson said more than £280bn had been invested throughout the pandemic to protect “millions of jobs and businesses, including those in the health and beauty sector”. 

They also said: “This support now includes one-off top up business grants worth up to £9,000 per property, on top of monthly grants worth up to £3,000, which together cover the assumed rent of all small and medium sized business properties and an extended furlough scheme.” 

“We have also provided £1.6bn to local authorities to enable them to set up discretionary grant funding schemes.  

“We encourage local authorities to target this support at businesses which are severely impacted by the current restrictions, but which are not eligible for the fixed grants.” 

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