Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget has been greeted with some warm words, caution as the fine detail is pored over – and some worries by hospitality section leaders.
UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said he had listened to concerns and it looked like crucial support will help businesses at a critical time.
She said: “The Chancellor has announced support to help our sector get back up and running, now it is vital that the Government sticks to its date of 21 June for a full reopening of the sector. Delay would see more businesses fail, more jobs lost and undo much of the good work the Chancellor has done to date.”
UKHospitality had been pushing hard for action on the VAT rate so welcomed an extension for a full year of the 5 per cent rate. They will now be seeking a permanently reduced rate as a ‘positive legacy’ of what had been a dreadful year.
On business rates, another major issue, Nicholls said: “It is great that this fixed cost has been eliminated during the recovery and is heavily reduced for the rest of the financial year. It will give some much-needed breathing room for businesses as they prepare to reopen, though the cap will impact some larger businesses.”
As she pointed out, not all businesses will be able to reopen swiftly and some will be burning through meagre cash reserves as they do so, extra flexibility is crucial.
The extension of the furlough scheme was similarly welcomed as providing some ‘peace of mind’ for employees but, added Nicholls: “There is still a worry that it will place unnecessary pressure on fragile businesses just as they are beginning to get back to their feet, though.”
The organisation considers the grants system a vital boost but wants to see the assistance find its way to businesses that need them as quickly as possible and that interest rates are capped. They also seek confirmation that EU State Aid rules do not apply to these grants.
Scrapping any increase on alcohol duty will be warmly welcomed but glasses are yet to raised over the rents crisis in hospitality. Nicholls said: “The biggest gap in support remains the outstanding sector rent debt. We need the Government to announce an extension of the moratoria at the earliest opportunity and work with industry to establish a landing zone to resolve this £2bn millstone around our recovery.”
But there are ‘cheers ‘ for the recruitment bonus. She said: “Increasing the recruitment incentive will be a major boost in helping the hospitality sector rebuild once the crisis has passed. The doubling of the apprenticeship incentive will be a major boost for our sector’s recovery and aids our commitment to upskilling people across the country. “Driving the economic recovery of the UK will be dependent on getting people back into work and this will be a huge help. The hospitality sector is going to be a key weapon in the country’s arsenal if it wants to rebuild the economy and tackle unemployment.”