(Update: Response from the Treasury has also been shared below)
The recent increase in Covid infections has affected all of us. However, the hospitality sector has been one of the worst hit. They were relying on this period to recover their losses from the previous two years. But, they are currently facing cancellation in bookings, shortage of staff and a general lack of clarity of what the next week may bring for their source of livelihood.
In order to represent their concerns, as well as understand what should the government be doing to help this badly affected sector, I surveyed over 35 pubs, clubs, music venues, restaurants, hotels and industry associations in Bristol. I also met some of these people on 22 December, a day after the Chancellor’s relief announcement.
I have shared the questions raised by the respondents and meeting attendees, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
This government has barely taken the first step towards supporting those whose livelihoods have been affected due to Omicron. The measures announced by the Chancellor on 22 December ignores millions. Those it does offer help, it is nowhere close to what they need.
I will continue to work for these businesses so that they can once again thrive in 2022. They are a large part of what makes Bristol great.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak
The Correspondence and Enquiry Unit
1 Horse Guards Road
22 December 2021
Re: Urgent clarifications needed by the hospitality sector in Bristol West
Your announcement yesterday came as a relief to many in the hospitality sector. I too welcome your decision to inject much needed cash into the struggling sector. However, these measures can only be a starting point. Pubs, music venues, restaurants, hotels and the many businesses that support them, are counting on you to provide additional clarity and support.
I met with many of these businesses today, and I would like to represent their key asks:
- The grant of up to £6,000 will mostly benefit larger premises. Most local bars and venues will receive only a tiny fraction, which will go nowhere in covering costs. Will you consider increasing the grant amount and assure businesses that the scheme will last into 2022?
- The industry needs support today. How will you ensure a quick rollout of your plan, that puts money into the hands of business owners when they are in most need of it?
- There is an urgent need for clarity on restrictions for New Year’s Eve. Businesses will be incurring large cash expenses this week to stock up. If there are any additional restrictions, they will lose that money. Can you ensure the government announces the plan for the period between Christmas and New Years immediately, ideally with a supporting financial statement?
- There was no mention in your announcement for those that support the hospitality sector. The industry requires taxi drivers, cleaning services, music promoters, and many others to function smoothly. Their livelihoods have also been affected. How does the government plan to support them?
While the measures announced on 21 December 2021 are welcome, it is a matter of too little for too few. During a recent survey I took of businesses and industry associations in Bristol West, I learnt the situation is dire for many. 100% of respondents have seen business decline this year compared to normal Christmas, and 94% have seen their costs go up.
How do you plan to release critical information and additional financial support, so that the bells on Christmas Day, do not become death knells for an industry that provides employment and joy to millions of British people?
As many of Bristol’s hospitality businesses have asked me to make these representations to you, please be aware that I will be sharing your response, as well as this letter, on my website.
Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West
Please see the response from the Treasury below:
Thank you for your letter of 22 December to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on behalf of
your constituents, about COVID-19 business support. I am replying as the Minister
responsible for this policy area. I apologise for the delay in my response.
I am sorry to read of the difficulties your constituents and their businesses are currently
Plan B has been designed to help control the virus’s spread while avoiding unduly
damaging economic and social restrictions.
The Government has provided around £400 billion of direct support for the economy
through the pandemic to date, which has helped to safeguard jobs, businesses and
public services in every region and nation of the UK. This includes £1 billion of further
support announced on 21 December, which is designed to support the hospitality,
leisure, cultural and other sectors affected by the impact of the Omicron variant, and the
reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme, to provide further support for
small and medium-sized employers.
This includes new one-off cash grants of up to £6,000 to support eligible businesses in
the hospitality and leisure sectors, totalling nearly £700 million. There are no legal
restrictions on trading or mandated closures and these are generous grants equivalent to
the monthly cash grants we provided to hospitality businesses when they were fully
closed last year.
We are also providing over £100 million new discretionary funding to local authorities to
support other impacted businesses. This was on top of the £250 million of Additional
Restrictions Grant (ARG) held by local authorities in December which had yet to be
disbursed to businesses.
In addition, the Government is making available £30 million further funding to cultural
organisations through the Culture Recovery Fund for 2021/22, boosting the amount
available for applications to support cultural organisations in England through the winter.
This will support our local and national cultural organisations through this period of
temporary disruption and will help to protect jobs.
We are also providing further support for small and medium-sized businesses, by
reintroducing the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Rebate Scheme, as called for by the Federation
of Small Businesses. The scheme means employers can apply to receive a cash rebate
from the Government which covers the cost of SSP for up to two weeks per employee.
HMRC also stands ready to support any business impacted by the coronavirus pandemic
through its Time to Pay arrangement. As part of this, businesses in the hospitality and
leisure sectors in particular will be offered the option of a short delay, and payment in
instalments, on a case-by-case basis. HMRC’s “time to pay” service allows any taxpayer
who needs it the option to spread their tax payments. Self-Assessment taxpayers with up
to £30,000 of tax debt can do this online, and all others can call HMRC to arrange a
This is against the backdrop of support for businesses which had already announced in
the Spring and Autumn Budgets in 2021.Eligible businesses in the retail, hospitality and
leisure sectors in England paid no business rates for 15 months from 1 April 2020, and
thanks to the 66 per cent capped relief which took effect on 1 July 2021, over 90 per
cent of eligible businesses are estimated to see a 75 per cent reduction in their business
rates bill across this entire financial year. From 1 April 2022, there will be a new 50 per
cent capped business rates relief.
£1.5 billion funding through the COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund (CARF) is available for
businesses that have not previously had business rates support, including businesses in
the supply chain of sectors most affected by the impacts of Omicron. The guidance for
local authorities (LAs) was published by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and
Communities on 15 December 2021. providing support to those businesses affected by
COVID-19 but have not been covered by existing support linked to business rates. It is for
LAs to award relief based on their local schemes and applications received and having
regard to the guidance.
The guidance can be viewed at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-
Hospitality and tourism businesses UK-wide continue to benefit from the 12.5 per cent
reduced VAT rate until the end of March. This amounts to a discount of over a third in
comparison to what would otherwise be due under the standard rate of VAT, helping to
support the cash flow and viability of around 150,000 businesses and protect over 2.4
million jobs in the hospitality and tourism sectors.
The Recovery Loan Scheme has been extended and will remain in place until 30 June
2022, providing a 70 per cent guarantee to lenders to help ensure small and medium-sized businesses have access to the finance they need. Between March 2020 and their
closure to new applications on 31 March 2021, the Coronavirus Business Interruption
Loan Scheme, the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and the Bounce
Back Loan Scheme collectively provided more than 1.5 million UK businesses with support
worth over £75 billion.
Thank you for making us aware of your concerns on behalf of the hospitality businesses
in your constituency and I hope you find this information helpful.
EXCHEQUER SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY