Thank you for contacting me about the hospitality industry and the support needed to get through the Coronavirus pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, many constituents have been in touch with me about the challenges the hospitality industry faces. Whether they work in hospitality or they just believe that Islington’s pubs, restaurants and bars are one of the things that make living here such a pleasure, my constituents are passionate about securing the future of this vital part of our community, and I can assure you I feel the same.
Last year, hospitality businesses were unable to consistently operate for any prolonged period of time, despite the great efforts many went to in order to ensure that their premises were COVID-secure. As you know, the rules kept changing: first, they were closed; then there was a ban on indoor household mixing; then came the 10pm curfew, which the government has yet to provide scientific evidence for. And then in London, sudden Tier 4 restrictions also meant that our pubs, bars and restaurants had to close without warning just days before Christmas, with businesses losing out on thousands of pounds’ worth of profits.
Tory dither, delay and incompetence over the past couple of months, alongside the spread of a new, more contagious strain of the virus, has meant that we are now in our third national lockdown of the pandemic, with hospitality businesses having once again been asked to close their doors to keep us all safe.
With reports that turnover in the UK hospitality industry dropped by 40% in 2020, so many businesses are worrying that they may soon have to close their doors for good. It is essential that the government supports hospitality businesses and their suppliers, so that, once restrictions begin to ease, we can return to the pubs, bars and restaurants we all miss so much.
Currently, hospitality businesses can benefit from business support schemes such as the CJRS and business loans, reduced rates of VAT, a business rates holiday for 2020/21, and small business grants. On 5 January, the Chancellor announced further grants of up to £9,000, depending on the rateable value of a business’ property. Whilst the hospitality industry has welcomed these grants, it is also calling for longer-term support from the government, including extended business rates relief and reduced VAT beyond March 2021.
Labour are calling on the government to use some of the £2 billion supermarkets have handed back to them in business rates relief to help hard-hit businesses, including those in the hospitality industry. From the start of the pandemic, the government should have introduced sector-specific support. The government’s one-size-fits-all approach to economic support and its subsequent withdrawal has fallen well short of the mark. Hospitality businesses deserve better.
A Westminster Hall Debate on support for the hospitality industry is taking place on 11 January. As a member of the Shadow Cabinet, I am not allowed to actively participate. However, I’m sure my colleagues will raise the sector-specific measures you have outlined in your email and I hope that they will be considered in full during the debate. If there is anything further you would like to raise, please get in touch again and I shall write to the Minister.
Thank you again for contacting me about this very important issue. I hope that you and your family are keeping safe and well.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury