The roadmap announced by Boris Johnson yesterday is as expected, a cautious one. It is also as we predicted, one that he steered straight down the middle of the road.
Anyone expecting or hoping that a roadmap with less caution would be unveiled was being optimistic, as the runes were there to be read for weeks in the run up to it. There were no surprises, and that in a way is a good thing as it demonstrates a clear vision and application to it.
We know that many will have wanted a roadmap and timelines with a faster trajectory line of easing restrictions, but for the Prime Minister, the hospitality industry, and the country, the cost of getting it wrong again was too big to risk.
On two occasions we came out of lockdown too quickly and saw the return of a more virulent virus. Now, during the third and most damaging lockdown, still carrying collateral damage from one and two, getting it wrong again would only compound the damage to date.
There are parts of the plan that can be questioned, but given the extraordinary pressure the PM was under from the hawks and doves that lobbied for, much faster, much slower, less caution, more caution, a reasonable balance has been struck.
That balance is only valid however, if next Wednesday Rishi Sunak delivers a budget that balances the finances of those impacted by the Prime Minister’s plan.
Hospitality businesses are closed through no fault of their own, but as a direct consequence of government policy. As such, the government has a responsibility to fully mitigate the economic cost from following that policy.
The Chancellor will need to ensure he backs the Prime Minister’s actions and fully recognises his government’s responsibility to do so. Responsibility not choice.
The reopening process needs capital to do so. As a consequence of the lockdowns to date many hospitality businesses have exhausted cash flows. The Chancellor’s budget therefore needs to address this head on.
The government will need to provide access to capital to allow the safe reopening of hospitality.
CBILS and BBL payments need to be suspended to allow cash flows to fund reopening.
The furlough scheme needs to be extended to shadow the gradual return of people to work forecasted in the roadmap.
The current VAT rate of 5% needs to be maintained until at least three months after unrestricted trading resumes. Business rates as well as the rent moratorium need to be maintained similarly.
Hospitality has been on the front line of impact from Covid-19, and has implemented government policies as requested to fight the virus. Hospitality now needs full recognition and recompense from government for doing so.
The roadmap battle has been fought, it is now time to not waste energies retrospectively and focus fully on the Chancellor of the Exchequer recognising his responsibilities and implementing them.
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Hospitality & Catering News: Boris’ roadmap straight down the middle of the road, now needs Rishi’s full backing. – 23 February 2021 – Boris’ roadmap straight down the middle of the road, now needs Rishi’s full backing.
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