UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the business rates holiday announced in last week’s budget to cover all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector.
Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus briefing today (17 March), Sunak reiterated the message that the government would do “whatever it takes” to deal with Covid-19 outbreak.
He acknowledge that some sectors were facing “particularly acute challenges” and meetings would be held in the coming dates to “identify other specific opportunities to support them and their industries, including possible regulatory forbearance”.
Regarding the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, Sunak said that there had been “concerns about the impact on pubs, clubs, theatres and other hospitaltiy, leisure and retail venues”.
Answering concerns raised by the industry and in an article in the drinks business, Sunak said that for those businesses that have insurance policies which cover pandemics, that “the government action is sufficient and will allow businesses to make an insurance claim against their policy”.
However, Sunak acknowledged that many companies in the industry were not covered and that the government needed to “do more” to help them.
He added: “I announced last week that for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value of less than £51,000, they will pay no business rates this year. Today, I can go further and provide those businesses in those sectors with an additional cash grant of up to £25,000 per business to help bridge through this period.
“Additionally I am also extending today the business rates holiday to all businesses in those sectors irrespective of their rateable value. That means every single shop, pub, theatre, music venue, restaurant and any other businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector will pay no business rates whatsoever for 12 months.
“If they have a rateable value of less than £51,000 they can also now get a cash grant as well.
“I also announced last week that we would be providing £3,000 cash grants to the 700,000 of our smallest businesses. In light of the new circumstances and to support their cash flow, today I can increase those cash grants to £10,000.”
During the press conference, Sunak also revealed he would make £330 billion available in loans to keep firms afloat during the outbreak. He has also agreed to support liquidity among larger firms and has agreed a facility with the Bank of England.
For small and medium sized businesses, he has extended the businesses interruption loan scheme announced last week, providing loans of up to £5 million, instead of £1.2 million, with no interest due for the first five months.
Commenting on the measures announced by the Chancellor, CAMRA’s national chairman, Nik Antona, said: “The government’s announced measures to mitigate the devastating impact of Covid-19 do not go far enough in ensuring no pub, club or brewery goes out of business as a result of the current crisis.
“While a business rate holiday for all hospitality businesses and rate relief for eligible pubs will help alleviate some costs, this will do little to compensate for the potential collapse of cashflow in businesses which customers have been told to stay away from. Making loans to businesses with no money coming in and multiple overheads to meet through a period of no, or low trading, is simply kicking the can down the road.
“We would urge additional measures to cover all liabilities, however long the restrictions on pubs, to ensure these vital businesses can emerge unsaddled by debt and able to deliver the many benefits to the communities they serve.”