Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the new round of funding – targeted in the main to the hospitality sector – would help UK business “get through the months ahead,” just as Downing Street announced that lockdown would likely last for months, not weeks. But, as the presumed heir to the Tory crown will hear over the comings days, more will be needed by the hospitality sector.
In a move which has been broadly welcomed by business stakeholders, the government has released details of a new raft of relief funding for businesses impacted by the ongoing lockdown, with the Treasury pledging some £4.6bn by way of grant funding.
Tuesday saw chancellor Rishi Sunak announce a new scheme of “one-off top up grants” worth up to £9,000, which will be made available to all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.
An additional pot of £594m will be treated as a “discretionary fund” and be utilised to support “other impacted businesses.”
Meanwhile, a sizeable chunk of the new relief bill (£1.1bn) will disseminated to the various local authorities, enabling the continuation of local furlough schemes as well as a monthly £3,000 injection for eligible impacted business by way of the Local Restriction Support Grants.
“Throughout the pandemic we’ve taken swift action to protect lives and livelihoods and today we’re announcing a further cash injection to support businesses and jobs until the spring,” Sunak remarked.
“This will help businesses to get through the months ahead – and crucially it will help sustain jobs, so workers can be ready to return when they are able to reopen.” This new round of funding was unveiled less than a day after Boris Johnson informed the public that the ongoing lockdown would continue until the February half-term at the latest, citing the new variant of the virus as justification for prolonged restrictions.
Sunak appeared to tow the Downing Street line in his own statement yesterday, saying that the Covid variant “presents us all with a huge challenge – and whilst the vaccine is being rolled out, we have needed to tighten restrictions further.”
Responding to the news, Bacta chief executive John White highlighted to members that “machine operators, manufacturers and distributors” all fall under eligibility for support by way of the discretionary funding provided to local councils.
“Check your local authority websites to see any details that they may put in place,” he wrote to operators. “It is likely they will follow their existing processes.”
BACTA RESPONDS TO LOCKDOWN 3
Bacta is disappointed that we have entered a third lockdown for all of the businesses affected and the individuals who are starting the New Year with further uncertainty. We can only hope that the government fulfils its promises regarding speedy vaccinations, as our sector cannot sustain this for very much longer. For those depending on seasonal trade, a re-opening well ahead of Easter is absolutely essential. We would like to urge members to consult with their local authorities regarding the grants that are due to them – some of these are awarded on a discretionary basis – however, we must ensure that any discrimination against our members’ business is challenged vigorously.
BBPA calls for haste in grant delivery
The British Beer & Pub Association has welcomed news of renewed grants from Westminster as a “lifeline” to the UK’s battered pub economy – but urged civil servants to make haste in the delivery of funding in order to minimise the number of hospitality businesses folding indefinitely. Under the new package laid out by the chancellor, all pub businesses are eligible for a one-off grant worth up to £9,000 per property – with a net value of £277m to the pub industry as a whole.
The BBPA has spent the last few months repeatedly calling on government to “significantly increase” the level of available funding to UK pubs, arguing that inaction would place a broad chunk of pub real-estate “at very real risk of closing for good.”
To that end, the trade association’s chief executive Emma McClarkin has described the new relief package as “the lifeline we have been campaigning for,” but said that grants needed to be distributed as speedily as possible.
“Without this support, pubs across England were at real risk of being lost for good at the beginning of this year,” she remarked. “Given that the future of so many pubs hang by a thread, it is essential that the government deliver these grants to pub businesses immediately.”
“If the grants take weeks or months to get to the pubs they are meant for, it will be too late,” she continued. “We stand ready to work with government and local authorities to ensure the grants are delivered at pace.”
Looking ahead, McClarkin said that the current level of pledged funding would allow pubs to push-through safely until Spring, but called on legislators to match the same grant commitments for the brewery sector – which has “suffered months of closure of a major trading channel in pubs but are not eligible for the support announced today.”
“In the coming months, the government must also share how it will help our sector to play a leading role in the economic recovery when it can reopen, by extending stimulus support such as the Business Rates holiday and VAT cut, along with further initiatives including a beer duty cut,” she went on. “The sooner we hear of the long term support for the sector the better.”