OPINION - Rishi Sunak unveils £1bn support package for hospitality – will it work?

·2-min read
 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

It’s amazing what you can find in your pocket even days after a long-haul flight. Discarded sweet wrappers, a crumpled boarding pass, £1 billion in emergency support funding for the hospitality and leisure sector. The package includes:

  • £683million for targeted grants for hospitality and leisure businesses in England.

  • £102m for firms outside the hospitality and leisure industries but which might be vital to the supply chains in those sectors.

  • £30m for theatres, orchestras and museums which have been forced to shut down again, running through to March 2022.

  • The return of the Government’s Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for companies with fewer than 250 employees. The scheme reimburses firms for the cost of statutory sick pay for Covid-related absences, for up to two weeks per employee

Is it enough? As we report in today’s paper, up to a third of central London hospitality businesses are shutting early due to a combination of staff absences and customer cancellations. Nearly half of London’s major theatres cancelled shows at the weekend.

The money has been broadly welcomed by the CBI and British Chamber of Commerce. What it is not however is a targeted furlough scheme or a substantial increase to statutory sick pay. It will also not help those employees on zero or small hour contracts who will simply not get the work they otherwise would have.

A further danger for the Chancellor is that the money outlined may be enough to eat away at his prized fiscal headroom, but not sufficient to prevent more firms from laying off staff and going out of business.

Because fundamentally, trade will not return to normal until the Omicron wave subsides. So much has changed since March 2020 but at least one core principle endures: the trade-off between health and the economy is largely a false one. For as long as there is a health crisis, people will behave accordingly, and so you’ll have an economic one too.

Elsewhere in the paper, an independent review has been launched into flash floods that caused chaos and left a trail of destruction across the capital in July. Back in October, I wrote a piece exploring how Londoners must get ready for our warmer, rainier future.

In the comment pages, Mayor Sadiq Khan writes that our city can summon the strength and solidarity to get us through this crisis.

Meanwhile, from Carrie to Liz, Anne McElvoy brings you the women to watch on Planet Boris.

And finally, food critic Jimi Famurewa’s serves up his ten favourite restaurants of the year. Don’t read on an empty stomach.

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