Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced measures to support England’s hospitality sector this festive period as Omicron cases rise.
The £1billion fund has been made available as cash grants of up to £6,000 per premises.
Sunak also confirmed that in some circumstances, the government would help cover sick pay for Covid-related staff absences, but has refused to revive the furlough scheme.
The Chancellor has also committed to a top-up of discretionary grant funding and the release of a £1.5billion package to support the supply chain.
“This is a generous package building on existing hospitality support measures to provide an immediate emergency cash injection for those businesses who, through no fault of their own, have seen their most valuable trading period annihilated,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive at UKHospitality.
“It will help to secure jobs and business viability in the short term, particularly among small businesses in the sector, and we particularly welcome the boost to funds for the supply chain and event and business catering companies so badly affected by the reintroduction of work from home guidelines.
“There is now a real urgency in getting this funding to businesses so we urge local authorities to prioritise distribution of funds to make sure jobs and businesses are preserved through this difficult period.”
UKHospitality and Croydon Business Improvement District have forecasted that hospitality businesses will lose £4billion in December alone, as such the chancellor's critics have argued that the outlined measures aren't enough to support the industry.
“The support package announced yesterday doesn’t go far enough," said Adam Parton, partner at accountancy group MHA.
"Unlike government support in the earlier phases of Covid-19, we aren’t seeing the much-needed reduction in VAT - which should go back down to 5% - or furlough support for businesses and employees and grants for the self-employed. Without these measures, which proved effective last time, the sector will struggle.
“It could be that yesterday’s initiative is only the first part of a new wave of support by the government. This will be what the sector is hoping for. Alternatively, yesterday’s measures might just be there to balance out the ‘bad news’ as more restrictions are introduced, with no intention of building on them in the coming months.
“If there are more measures on the way the Chancellor needs to hurry up. In the next couple of weeks and in 2022 cash flow will be a major concern as many venues are now seeing a more than 50% cancellation in their bookings. This could prove a devastating and costly blow for businesses in terms of employee wage commitment in addition to wasted food stocks.”