I am accumulating debts and losing money every day, without any money coming in.

At the end of March, I suspended activity at the workshop in accordance with the lockdown and furloughed my three employees. I intended to work alone through the crisis but had Coronavirus symptoms in early April, my wife and children immediately after. My wife is still struggling to breathe 12 weeks later.

Clients are closed

We have just started working again, finishing the projects contracted for before the lockdown. Once we finish these projects, there is nothing. I have not been able to quote for new projects as all the country houses and museums I typically work for are closed. Going forwards, there is little prospect of work as these places already struggle with running costs and now have no visitors.

The majority of my business neighbours have benefited from a £10,000 grant from government. My local garage has been so busy during lockdown and a few weeks ago, the owner received a £10,000 grant. He told me that his bank account has never been so healthy.

Another neighbour installs dust extractors in schools and workshops. His premises have a rateable value of £14,500, paying little business rates per year. He, too, has received the £10,000 grant. He never stopped working, taking the opportunity to work in the closed schools when everyone was in lockdown.

I applied for the grant, but like many businesses, I was turned down. Why? Because compared to my local garage, I have a large workshop, with large pieces of machinery and large items of furniture awaiting repair.

The rateable value of my workshop is £18,000 a year and I pay £9000 a year in business rates. Only businesses in premises that have a rateable value of less than £15,000 are entitled to receive the £10,000 grant.

There are no questions asked whether these businesses are affected or not by the situation, they get the money regardless.

For me, the workshop was closed down for two months, my employees can’t come to work nor take either machinery or furniture home. Rent, utility bills and, of course, business rates did not go away during these two months.

In the last 10 years, I have paid over £90,000 in business rates. But in these difficult times, it seems ludicrous that the government would use the business rate as a good way to decide if your business is big or small, if your business is suffering or not from Covid, and if you need help or not.

A grant now would enable me to try and last out this year in the hope of more contracts in 2021. But once again, this government does not help the ‘manufacturing’ sector. We have large workshops but we don’t make a lot of money. My annual profit is less than £10,000 a year. I have invested my life and my savings in this business and I provide quality work and quality conditions of work to my employees.

A passion career

Restoring historical objects is a passion. I enjoy what I do, I am privileged to work on beautiful art objects of the past and I feel I contribute to preserving the past for future generations. However, contrary to general belief, you don’t make a great deal of money working for museums or country houses.

Yannick Chastang

Faversham, Kent

(A copy of this letter was sent to his MP)