Over the past few weeks I’ve been speaking to BARBIE, Business West, Bristol City Council and my colleagues in the Labour Party to try and ensure that I am doing everything I can to support businesses in the hospitality and nightlife sector. The hospitality industry is the third largest UK employer – it is responsible for about 3 million jobs, generates £130 billion in activity, and is an incredibly important sector for employment and enjoyment in Bristol. It’s what makes our city such a great place to live in.
You’ve told me how the move to Tier 2 for one week meant that you stocked up your bars, restaurants, and cafes and the national lockdown made it all go to waste. You’ve told me that the new small business grants aren’t enough – I know that only a small majority of businesses will be receiving the full £9k, and even that is lower than what was offered in March and not enough. The timing of receiving grant payments is still an issue, and I know that there are businesses who are still yet to receive money from Bristol City Council.
Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds responded to the Chancellor yesterday and said that the government must support those that started their job after the start of November through extending the furlough scheme, they must fix the broken system of support for self-isolation, and must help people who have been excluded from support so far.
Labour is pushing for the government to properly support people through this crisis, and we will keep bringing these issues to the government. Yesterday, Labour MP Catherine McKinnell brought the Westminster Hall debate on e-petitions relating to support for the hospitality industry including the call for a Hospitality Minister and for financial support. She joined UKHospitality’s calls for the extension of the business rates holiday and a 5% VAT rate, and a longer term plan to help businesses plan their survival while a vaccine is rolled out.
She urged government to examine urgently the inadequacies of their support measures as they relate to hospitality and the night time economy, and to give local authorities the freedom to grant and target support towards the businesses that need it the most – currently they are constrained at no fault of their own.
There were clear and strong cross party calls for the government to reconsider the requirement to pay national insurance on furloughed employees, to extend the business rates holiday, a VAT cut, to extend the terms of the loan scheme, extend the furlough scheme and the creation of government backed Covid indemnity insurance policies like in other European countries, including Germany.
It’s clear what the government must do to support this sector – it’s been laid out many times and there is considerable cross-party pressure for more support. Whilst Rishi Sunak failed to offer any further support yesterday, Labour will continue to lobby him to do the right thing and change his mind.
I’m working with the Music Venue Trust and I’m worried that more venues in Bristol will enter their ‘red zone’. It’s clear that the business grants offered are not enough to take them out of this critical position. The APPG on Night Life has created an inquiry into the impact of Covid on the nightlife industry. I urge you to take part and share your concerns.
Before Covid, all of these businesses were not only viable, but thriving. I’ve heard how 2019 was a great year for Bristol in terms of business – 2020 was the worst that it has ever been. I will not stop fighting to ensure that you get through this last difficult few months – and that you can open again soon.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you think there’s anything I can do for you individually.