Coronavirus: support ‘must be extended and enhanced’

FURTHER support for businesses is needed if the hospitality industry is to weather the COVID-19 storm, according to trade group UK Hospitality, which has said the current government measures need to be “extended and enhanced”.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons Treasury Committee today (April 21), the organisation’s chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said there are a number of areas where government support is not having the intended effect.

These include the Job Retention Scheme, where an estimated 350,000 seasonal workers across the UK are not covered; loan schemes, with only around 18% of hospitality businesses that applied for a loan being able to sure one; the grants scheme, which 71% of hospitality businesses are ineligible for; and insurance, with 71% of UK Hospitality members having claims rejected.

Nicholls said there is also action needed on rents, with “serious damage expected” when commercial rents are next due.

“Government support for businesses has been swift and it has helped many businesses get over the initial shock of the crisis,” said Nicholls.

“It is clear, however, that too many businesses are struggling to access support and that the schemes in place must be extended and enhanced.

“Hospitality was the first sector to be hit hard by the crisis and it will be one of the last to make a recovery. Even when lockdown measures are lifted, our sector faces a huge challenge in getting customers back through their doors and finding solutions to social distancing measures that are likely to be in place.

“Business support needs to be boosted immediately to make sure that every business that needs it can access it. Scrapping thresholds for grants and support with rents will keep businesses alive and keep jobs open.”

She added that support for business must be continued after the shutdown is lifted.

“This support then needs to be carried over after the worst of the crisis has passed,” said Nicholls.

“If it is abruptly switched off, then all the good work that has been done during these difficult weeks will be undone.

“Hospitality is going to be battling with the effects of this for months if not years and support from the government cannot be stopped until businesses are back up to full strength.”