As I’m writing this, it’s just two days before Christmas. I’m thinking back to when, only a few weeks ago, we all thought that we were getting back to normal, and looking forward to that great British tradition, the ‘Christmas Party’. Most of us were jabbed up and boosted; what could go wrong?
Well, Omicron happened and, although it’s certainly caused an increase in infections, here in England at least, we’re not in lockdown. Even so, many are taking a very cautious approach to getting out and about, as well as reverting to working from home. The French and Germans have banned us from visiting, and the Dutch are in strict lockdown.
All of this will have a significant effect on many businesses, particularly those in the leisure, hospitality and tourism sectors. The Chancellor has been providing support to businesses during the pandemic: local authority grants, Eat Out to Help Out, SEISS, furlough and Bounce Back Loans, to mention but a few.
On 21 December 2021, the Chancellor announced that businesses within the leisure, hospitality and tourism sectors will be eligible for a one-off grant. Pubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres can apply for a grant of up to £6,000 for each of their premises. An additional £100 million will be made available to local authorities as a discretionary fund. This will allow local authorities to distribute this funding to businesses that are most in need.
The Government will also cover the cost of Statutory Sick Pay, for COVID-19 related absences, for small and medium-sized employers (SMEs) across the UK.
Cultural organisations are also being hit hard by the pandemic. In England, these will benefit by an addition of £30 million via the Culture Recovery Fund. As a theatre goer myself, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to attend this year’s panto as a ‘live’ show. Last year’s on Zoom was great but it wasn’t quite the same. I know a lot of shows are having to shut down as cast members are having to self-isolate.
Whether these measures will be enough to see businesses survive into the New Year remains to be seen. I feel that the Government may be hoping that things will get better sooner rather than later. As January and February are usually quiet months, especially in the hospitality sector, that might be optimistic. If infection rates continue to rise, the Government may have to increase its support for
certain business sectors, as they won’t want to lose the benefits of past financial support given.
The Government also reiterated measures already in effect:
- Business rates relief for the majority of businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors.
- Reduced rate of VAT for hospitality and tourism, until 31 March 2022.
- Protection from eviction for businesses in rent arrears, until March 2022.
- Access for SMEs to finance via the Recovery Loan Scheme.
- Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) repayment flexibility.
- HMRC have been asked to support businesses impacted by COVID-19 through its Time to Pay Arrangement, and in particular an option of a short delay and payments in instalments for the hospitality and leisure sectors.
Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said, “We recognise that the spread of the Omicron variant means businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors are facing huge uncertainty, at a crucial time.
“So, we’re stepping in with £1 billion of support, including a new grant scheme and the reintroduction of the SSP Rebate Scheme and further funding via the Culture Recovery Fund.
“Ultimately the best thing we can do to support business is to get the virus under control, so I urge everyone to Get Boosted Now!”
If you have any queries, you can contact me on 01473 833411 or [email protected]
Peter is the Guild’s accountant. This article is designed for the information of readers. Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, information contained in this article may not be comprehensive and recipients should not act upon it without seeking professional advice. “Larking Gowen” is the trading name of Larking Gowen LLP, which is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales (LLP number OC419486). Where we use the word partner it refers to a member of Larking Gowen LLP. © Larking Gowen