Hospitality chiefs welcome emergency support package – but caution more help may be needed

Hospitality and leisure industry leaders have welcomed the Chancellor’s newly-announced £1 billion emergency support package, but have cautioned more help may be needed.

Rishi Sunak today unveiled measures to assist consumer-facing businesses hit hardest by the pre-Christmas collapse in trade caused by the surge in Omicron.

Eligible businesses will be able to apply for one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises as part of a package of support which also includes more money to help smaller firms cover the costs of statutory sick pay.

Business leaders had been clamouring for Government support over the past week, after Plan B’s work from home order and wariness over catching the highly-transmissable variant before Christmas saw bookings devasted in two of the sector’s crucial trading weeks of the year.

Many central London pubs, restaurants and gyms had already closed early.

Hospitality businesses in the area had seen a 70% drop in revenues — double the levels in the rest of the country.

Kate Nicholls, CEO of trade body UK Hospitality, said the package is “generous” and will “help to secure jobs and business viability in the short term, particularly among small businesses in the sector”.

Supply chain businesses will be key beneficiaries, she said.

Emma McClarkin, CEO of the British Beer and Pub Association, said the support package will be “a vital lifeline for many”.

But she cautioned: “It will be absolutely essential that the Government continues to monitor and support our sector for the long-term as we ride out the pandemic and into recovery.

“Ensuring our pubs and brewers continue to have the support they need, including further financial support if further restrictions are introduced, along with a clear timeline for the lifting any such measures.”

Shevaun Haviland, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the grants must reach businesses quickly. (There were widespread reports that support grants were slow to reach business owners in the January lockdown last year, as cash sat with local councils for long periods).

Haviland said: “Whilst these measures are a positive starting point, if restrictions persist or are tightened further, then we would need to see a wider support package, equal to the scale of any new measures, put in place.”

Business groups are also asking for longer term measures such as extending the 12.5% VAT rate for hospitality beyond next April, business rates relief, a moratorium on evictions, and the reintroduction of a flexi-furlough scheme.

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