By Denis Sheehan
It seemed curious timing for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be out of the country when the PM was making appearances in Parliament and across media alongside the Chief Medical Officer. Side by side both offered different, contradictory solutions to the same problem, the voracious spread of Omicron.
Businesses, trade bodies, and unions called for emergency support following the PM proclaiming the spread of Omicron as an “emergency”, promoting Rishi Sunak yesterday afternoon to announce his return to the UK.
Nick Mackenzie, CEO of Greene King, said: “The guidance from Government to limit social interactions and shift to working from home has put our industry into lockdown in everything but name.
“Sales in our pubs in some parts of London are down as much as 70% compared to the same time in 2019.
“As consumer confidence plummets and booking cancellations rise, we urgently need Government to act to support the industry now by freezing business rates and removing the existing cap, confirming a longer term reduction in VAT and providing targeted support for those most severely affected by the current situation. This will help to continue to preserve livelihoods and jobs in our sector.”
Robert Richardson, CEO, Institute of Hospitality applauded the return of Rishi Sunak telling us: “The crisis in cancellations across the hospitality industry requires immediate attention. It is only right that the Chancellor of the Exchequer returns to the UK to address the crisis facing hospitality.
“I and countless members of the IoH look forward to leaning more about his solution to this crisis.”
UK Hospitality has lobbied for an extension of the discounted 12.5% VAT rate to stretch beyond its scheduled end in March 2022 to help their members, and for business rates due in the first quarter of next year to be deferred.
The CBI has called for an instruction from the government to tell councils to immediately release unused grants and rates relief to businesses in need.
The calls for help are relentless, while the reply from Rishi Sunak on video via twitter doesn’t however seem to indicate they have been absorbed, or will be acted upon soon.
Earlier I spoke about my meetings with hospitality leaders, the support available and the need for us to all #GetBoostedNow. pic.twitter.com/VwYrHemr70
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) December 16, 2021