Business groups welcome support, but warn more needed if restrictions continue

·4-min read

Business groups have welcomed a new package of Government support for hospitality and leisure companies, but warned that more might be needed if ministers tighten restrictions.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said that a “wider support package” could be needed, but welcomed the new announcements for bringing respite to businesses.

“We are pleased that the Chancellor heard our call for additional grant funding for hospitality and leisure businesses, which will provide some much-needed support in the face of this increasingly difficult trading period,” said BCC director general Shevaun Haviland.

“Clarity and speed will be needed to ensure that these grants are paid out swiftly to help these hard-pressed firms weather the next few weeks.

“Whilst these measures are a positive starting point, if restrictions persist or are tightened further, then we would need to see a wider support package, equal to the scale of any new measures, put in place.”

The package has promised another £1 billion of financial support for hospitality and leisure companies hit by the recent surge in Covid cases following the emergence of the Omicron strain of the virus.

Businesses will be able to get one-off grants worth up to £6,000 per premises that they run, the Treasury said on Tuesday.

Companies with fewer than 250 staff will also be allowed to claim back up to two weeks’ worth of statutory sick pay for each employee who gets the virus.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said the packages would be particularly good for small businesses and will secure jobs in the short term.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

Fellow hospitality leader Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), also said the package was “welcome” but that more support may be needed.

She said: “This short-term package of support from the Chancellor is welcome at this extremely challenging time for pubs and brewers.

“It will be a vital lifeline for many and will help compensate businesses for the dramatically reduced trade already being experienced in the run-up to Christmas.

“It will be absolutely essential that the Government continues to monitor and support our sector for the long-term as we ride out the pandemic and into recovery, ensuring our pubs and brewers continue to have the support they need, including further financial support if further restrictions are introduced, along with a clear timeline for the lifting any such measures.”

Nevertheless, some firms and unions have been much more critical of the level of support being offered.

Trade union Unite has cautioned that it believes the funding will be insufficient to see the sector through this latest wave of the crisis.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Workers did not create this pandemic and they must not pay the price for it in wage cuts and ultimately in losing their jobs.

“It is unacceptable that thousands of young workers face such awful uncertainty – they need to know now that they can pay their rent and that they still have a job.

“Today’s measures do not guarantee either. It looks like we are in ‘too little too late’ territory here.”

Meanwhile, night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, Sacha Lord, tweeted: “Support package being announced today. It’s pathetic.

“Won’t even touch the sides or save jobs. We all need to continue to ramp up the pressure.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) national chairman Mike Cherry said: “With the prospect of one million people sick or self-isolating by January, we encouraged the Chancellor to bring back the Covid statutory sick pay rebate – we’re pleased to see our recommendation taken forward today.

“This move will reduce stress for small employers up and down the country, helping those who are struggling most with depleted cashflow.

“It’s vital that small firms, once again up against a massively disrupted festive season, can reclaim the costs of supporting staff.”

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