Cautious welcome to UK package

London skyline

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled an £330bn package for businesses, including extending the 12-month business rates holiday to all hospitality companies.

The break had previously only been offered to companies with a rateable value up to £51,000.

Sunak said: “This is not a time for ideology and orthodoxy, this is a time to be bold, a time for courage. I want to reassure every British citizen this government will give you all the tools you need to get through this. That means any business who needs access to cash to pay their rent, their salaries, suppliers or purchase stock will be able to access a government-backed loan or credit on attractive terms.

John Webber,  head of business rates, Colliers International, said: “At last some news we have been waiting for. The Chancellor said that the 12-month business rates holiday will be extended to all firms in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, whatever their size. He has also promised up to £25,000 funding grants for smaller businesses in the sector and has introduced a package of £330bn of guaranteed loans (15% of GDP) for any business that needs it. The government seems to be putting its hands in its pockets and finally delivering what we and our retail and hospitality clients have been calling for – support for all in the sector- not just the smaller players.”

Webber’s praise held some caveats. He said: “Some business rates experts have pointed out that State Aid restrictions might apply to companies receiving the amounts they need. The EU has said that Covid 19 measures should be limited to €500,000 per company, which could prove to be an impediment to the 100% business rates relief extending as far as the Chancellor intends.”

Kate Nicholls, CEO, UKHospitality, said: “The Chancellor has clearly been listening and these extra measures represent proper progress on last week’s Budget. The focus now has to be on making sure that hospitality businesses can draw down the support loans and other funds while they still have businesses to operate, such are the levels of urgency for most businesses.

“We will wait with great anticipation and hope that the detail on employment support measures live up to the hype but, if they are substantive, this could amount to a really helpful raft of support - this needs to come urgently as jobs are being lost every day. Cashflow is the key focus for companies endeavouring to survive. We only hope that this can be enough.”

Jane Pendlebury, HOSPA CEO, outlined some of the actions already taken by the organisation’s members. These included: salary cuts across the board (from GM through to all levels), redundancies, forced unpaid leave of x days each week, redeploying staff to hospitals to help in food production / cleaning / administration to support medically trained staff, increased cleaning, offering hotel beds to the NHS and holding rates as reduced rates won’t increase demand.

She said: “So, keep calm and carry on then? Essentially, yes. Keep calm, make some immediate changes and carry on as best you can. Remember though, that we’re all in this together and that, at some point, we will come out the other side.”