Rishi Sunak in his budget gave us some hope that we can kick start the UK’s and Liverpool hospitality sector again. As we all know the sector has been incredibly badly hit and these measures have been a long time coming.
The headline announcements for us were around the 5% VAT extension, the £5bn grant scheme package for hospitality and retail and the business rates holiday.
Other announcements were on investment relief which should help us rebuild our city and town centres and regenerate high streets and communities; scrapping any increase on the rate of alcohol duty, but nothing about the long-campaigned for on-trade alcohol rate; and doubling of the apprenticeship incentive which will help with recruitment, upskilling, reskilling and employment rates and retention.
They were all welcome, but have they gone far enough?
Extending both the 5% VAT rate for another six months and the break in paying business rates would have meant more certainty for our beleaguered sector.
I agree with the CEO of UKHospitality, Kate Nicholl’s assessment:
“It is now vital that the government looks at introducing the interim rate for hospitality on a permanent basis. It would be a positive legacy of an otherwise dreadful year for our sector. A permanent reduced rate of VAT for hospitality would redress the unfair tax imbalance that our businesses have faced for too long and make us internationally competitive.”
Tough times still ahead for Liverpool hospitality
It has been for the entire Liverpool hospitality sector (and the UK as a whole), a very hard winter for us at Signature Living.
The next few months are going to be just as tough.
A successful reopening of hospitality in May is of paramount importance and is not guaranteed. It’s for that reason I would have liked the Chancellor to have offered more flexibility around furlough.
To let staff work up to half their hours and still be on furlough would allow companies to bring in staff perhaps a couple of weeks early to jump back into the routine of working again as they help the businesses they work for prepare for the big reopening in May.
As Kate Nicholls, also said: “Not all businesses will be able to reopen swiftly, it will take them time to get up and running.”
It’s going to be tough to get rid of all those cobwebs – literally and metaphorically – and some wriggle room around furlough will aid businesses to start really getting their act together, pushing out content, taking reservations, filling rooms, cleaning their operations and the like in advance of May 17.
It won’t hurt the government financially, because it has been taken care of within the Budget, but it won’t half help the sector and provide it with a massive springboard for success for the rest of the year.
Let’s be clear the government is almost broke, with the largest borrowing in peace time, some £350bn in the last year, so we need to find ways that won’t cost the public purse any more, but will aid businesses to be as efficient as possible when they reopen.
Hospitality can contribute to speedy economic recovery
It’s in the government’s best interest for a successful reopening to happen because we need all hospitality businesses to survive to boost the economy, to protect jobs and livelihoods and to do so the sector needs every chance to hit the ground running.
But how do you get your business shipshape and clean and ready to serve when there’s little money and no available staff running up to the day before you open?
This is so important for hotels, that are key to tourism, especially in a city like Liverpool which is so reliant on tourism income.
If we’re not careful some places, like Liverpool that are more dependent on tourism, will be really seriously hit, because there will be few overseas visitors and less city hoping than before Covid struck.