Thursday, 27 Jan 2022

‘Thrown under bus’ Fury at Rishi Sunak as more restrictions loom – Covid cases surge

Care home resident recalls struggles of coronavirus lockdown

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It comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there were “no guarantees” in a pandemic, implying tougher Covid measures could be introduced before Christmas: a normally lucrative and crucial time for hospitality and retail. As a result, over 100 destinations across the UK and 100,000 retail, hospitality and leisure businesses have written to the Prime Minister today calling for a #BusinessBooster and urgent assurances that financial support will be provided to these sectors who are hitting rock bottom following Plan B measures.

The letter identifies what action Government needs to be taken to stave off mass closures and redundancies across sectors.

Speaking to City AM, Matthew Sims, leader of the campaign and chief executive of Croydon Business Improvement District, said: “It is baffling and alarming that our Chancellor is doggedly sticking to measures which are out of date and out of touch with the stark and desperate reality retail, hospitality and leisure businesses are facing.”

He added: “Without swift intervention, many businesses will be faced with closures, layoffs and cut backs making the significant financial support Government has ploughed into these sectors during the pandemic a woeful waste of money.”

Andrew Taylor, owner of a gastro-pub in South London and restaurant in Northumberland, has already felt the sting of government policy. He said: “In the past week, we went from being fully booked in the lead up to Christmas to practically empty.”

Also speaking to City AM, he said that he felt hospitality had been “thrown under the bus” by the Government, with many nightclubs and venues voluntarily shutting this weekend in light of Plan B measures.

Catherine McGuinness, Chair of the Policy and Resources Committee, echoed this sentiment. She said: “We need to find ways to live with the virus which allow the economy to prosper, and in the meantime provide more support for the small businesses who are suffering under the restrictions.”

Looking at the capital in particular, Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, a business partnership of 600 UK & international retailers, said: “With rising Covid cases dampening consumer confidence and a Tube strike further impacting trade this weekend, it has been a more muted final weekend before Christmas than anticipated.”

The Government is yet to offer further measures for struggling businesses.

Restaurants and pubs have been dealing with large numbers of cancellations in the run-up to Christmas as fears have risen over the spread of Omicron.

The hospitality industry has estimated takings in December will be down by 40 percent – with the damage up to twice that in London.

The UK’s food and drink wholesalers, which supply schools, care homes and hospitals as well as pubs and restaurants, have warned they face losing millions of pounds if a new lockdown is announced, with millions of tonnes of food currently in warehouses going to waste.

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The Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) said businesses could “no longer absorb the losses caused by last-minute closure of their customers”.

Chancellor Mr Sunak met with representatives from the hospitality sector last Thursday to discuss their concerns after Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised people to “think carefully before you go” out to socialise.

The UK’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, also urged people not to “mix with people you don’t have to”.

A Treasury spokesperson said: “The chancellor has spoken to a range of business and industry leaders in recent days.”

They added: “We recognise how important the festive period is for so many businesses and the Government will continue to engage constructively on how it can best provide ongoing support to the businesses and sectors affected.”

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