Chancellor Rishi Sunak has promised to do “whatever it takes” to support the hospitality industry as he calls for a business rate holiday for 12 months and unveils a £330bn package in loans.
At a press conference held today (17 March), which took place less than a week after Sunak’s original Budget was announced, he outlined a number of new measures.
Sunak said: “The coronavirus pandemic is a public health emergency, but it is also an economic emergency. We have never in peace time faced an economic fight like this one.
“Last week I set out an initial economic response in the Budget. I promise to do whatever it takes to support our economy through this crisis, and if the situation changed, I would not hesitate to take further action.
Speaking specifically of the hospitality sector, he said: “As well as access to finance, businesses need support with cashflow and fixed costs. Following the changed medical advice yesterday, there are concerns about the impact on pubs, clubs, theatres and other hospitality, retail and leisure venues.
“Let me confirm that for those businesses, which do have a policy for insurance that covers pandemics, that the Government’s action is sufficient and will allow businesses to make an insurance claim against their policy.
“But many of those businesses don’t have insurance so we will need to do more. I announced last week that for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value of less than £51,000, they pay no business rates this year.
“Today I can go further to provide those businesses in those sectors with an additional cash grant of up to £25,000 per business, to help bridge through this period.
“Additionally, I am also extending the business rates holiday to all businesses in those sectors, irrespective of their rateable value.
“That means every shop, pub, theatre, music venue, restaurant and any other business in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector, will pay no business rates whatsoever for 12 months, and if they have a rateable value of less than £51,000, they can also now get a cash grant as well.”
UK Hospitality’s chief executive Kate Nicholls welcomed the announcement, but with caution. She said: “The Chancellor has clearly been listening, and these extra measures represent proper progress on last week’s Budget.
“The focus now has to be on making sure that hospitality businesses can draw down the support loans and other funds while they still have businesses to operate, such are the levels of urgency for most businesses.
“We will wait with great anticipation and hope that the detail on employment support measures live up to the hype but, if they are substantive, this could amount to a really helpful raft of support – this needs to come urgently as jobs are being lost every day.
“Cashflow is the key focus for companies endeavouring to survive. We only hope that this can be enough.”