By Denis Sheehan
The chancellor has emerged to set out measures to alleviate the hospitality industry from a collapse in bookings resulting from the government’s mixed Omicron messaging.
The chancellor announced £1bn being made available for cash grants of up to £6,000 per premises for eligible businesses. Government would also fund the cost of sick pay for Covid-related absences.
When challenged on if he would clarify on further restrictions before New Year, Sunak said the UK faced a very uncertain situation over Omicron.
Mirroring the PM’s comments yesterday, Sunak said government is keeping the situation under review and monitoring the data “day-by-day, hour by hour” and ruling nothing out.
It is not clear yet when the grants will be made available to struggling businesses, or the processes involved. It is a step in the right direction, but ease and speed of access for beleaguered businesses will be vital.
There was no additional measures taken on business rates relief, so many large multi site operators will continue to pay full business rates on a large number of their properties.
As always, the devil is in the detail, so we await that detail and hope what has been announced is delivered quickly, and makes a difference for many.
The early reactions on twitter to the announcement are not positive, in fact many are furious.
Post announcement reactions:
Des Gunewardena, CEO, D&D
“The Chancellor’s announcement of 6k per site for businesses like ours is wholly and shockingly inadequate. Many of our larger restaurants in Central London -Quaglino’s,100 Wardour Street, Coq d’Argent etc..-each lost 100k+ revenue from cancellations last week. And the same again this week. And heaven knows what’s going to happen to our New Year’s Eve. So each of those businesses is facing 200k+ loss and has been offered 6k. Doesn’t even cover the cost our Xmas decorations. The government continues through its policies of flat grants per site to crudely discriminate against the owners and staff of larger restaurants. Quaglinos employs 100+ staff and gets 6k. If those same 100 staff were employed by 10 smaller restaurants we’d get 60k. Why ?
“Unlike in the US and France where restaurant companies have been fully financially supported through lockdowns, the UK government continues to fail to do that.
“The announcement of additional local government funding and further rates support is of course welcome. But the numbers talked about are pretty small/We await details of that. London needs to receive a major chunk. It is central London that is in the eye of the Omicron storm. Last week the City lost 60% of revenues, the West End 30%. In contrast residential London and the regions’ revenues held up pretty well. Funding to support businesses needs to go where it’s most needed. And that currently is central London .
“It is true that many hospitality companies with the benefit of government support are now in pretty good shape. But that is NOT the case for businesses like ours which are predominantly in the centre of big cities and in particular in central London.”
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