Sadiq Khan has launched a scathing attack on chancellor Rishi Sunak’s financial support for the country’s hospitality, leisure and culture sectors announced yesterday, saying it will “barely touch the sides” in terms of what is needed in the capital.
A total of £1 billion has been allocated, of which £683 million will comprise “targeted grants” for leisure and hospitality businesses in England, £102 million is earmarked for local authorities to dispense to companies in those sectors’ supply chains and £30 million will augment the existing culture recovery fund assisting museums and theatres.
But in a statement the Mayor says the “devastating truth” about the one-off grants of a maximum £6,000 per eligible hospitality or leisure premises to compensate for Covid-related losses is that they are “a drop in the ocean” in terms of keeping affected businesses afloat especially if, as Khan has predicted, “further restrictive measures are forthcoming” in the New Year.
Khan said closing a West End show for one week “can cost over £250,000” and that a survey of its members by the Night Time Industries Association found that on average they expect takings in the run-up to Christmas to fall by £46,000. He said a “comprehensive package of measures” providing full business rates relief and an extension of the current VAT relief scheme along with bigger grants is what is needed to assist hospitality and culture throughout “the lean winter months”.
He also criticised the chancellor for not addressing the plights of freelancers and “gig economy” workers and urged ministers to “act now to ensure that more jobs are not permanently lost” and called for more clarity about the scale of Covid restrictions in the near future.
Khan’s comments are in line with those of Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill, who said the package is “far too little and borders on insulting”, and Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust, who said the funding “seems detached from the reality”.
Industry bodies UK Hospitality and the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions are continuing to lobby for VAT relief to be extended. The latter’s chief executive Bernard Donoghue, who is also a culture ambassador for the Mayor, thanked Sunak for his intervention.
There was a warmer welcome for Sunak’s announcement too from Muniya Barua, managing director of policy with business group London First, who said it was “good to see the Chancellor now taking action to support businesses in leisure and hospitality, which have been hit by a tsunami of cancellations just as they were getting back on their feet,” although she added that the government “will need to keep support measures under review should the situation worsen, particularly given the crucial role London will play in acceleration the UK’s recovery”.
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