| 24 May 2024, Friday |

UK Chancellor announces £1bn fund for hospitality

The chancellor has proposed steps to assist England’s hospitality industry, which is suffering from a drop in bookings caused by an increase in Covid cases.

Rishi Sunak announced a £1 billion pool of cash awards of up to £6,000 per site for each qualifying enterprise on Tuesday.

He also stated that the government will assist select businesses with the expense of sick leave for Covid-related absences.

The chancellor also pledged an additional £30 million to assist theatres and museums.

He stated that the “generous” additional assistance recognized the difficult position that many hotel and leisure firms faced in the run-up to Christmas.

He would not, however, be drawn on whether more assistance would be forthcoming if additional limits were announced, since ministers are under pressure to address the fast development of the Omicron variety.

A total of 91,743 Covid instances were recorded across the UK on Monday, the second highest daily total on record.

The chancellor emphasized that he will “always respond fairly and correctly to the scenario we confront,” citing his track record in administration.

He did, however, add that he considered the measures proposed today were equal to the subsidies offered when firms were entirely shuttered earlier this year.

He emphasized existing assistance that will remain until next spring, noting a decreased VAT rate for the tourist and hospitality industries as well as a business rate discount.

When asked if he could rule out any new Covid laws before the New Year, he said he understood people’s frustrations, but the UK was in a very precarious situation because of Omicron.

Mr Sunak, echoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statements on Monday, said ministers were keeping an eye on the issue and studying the data “day by day, hour by hour,” but he was not ruling anything out.

With only four days till Christmas, many are looking forward to celebrating the holiday season with loved ones after many missed out last year due to restrictions imposed just before Christmas.

Mr Johnson recently recommended people to “consider carefully before you go” out to socialize. Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, also warned people not to “mix with individuals you don’t have to.”

Many hotel and leisure businesses have seen a drop in reservations and lower traffic as a result of concerns about the spread of the Omicron strain.

Many people have been appealing for the government to make a clear decision on whether there will be more Covid limitations in England in the coming days.

According to BBC political journalist Damian Grammaticas, it currently appears doubtful that further limits would be imposed in England before Christmas.

However, he said that hotel and entertainment organizations will have to make key decisions in the following hours about whether to hold or cancel holiday activities.