Rishi Sunak pledge £1 billion to help hospitality businesses hit by Omicron
The NTIA says this package is "far too little"
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £1 billion bailout package for firms that had lost business due to the Omicron spike.
The money will mostly benefit businesses in the leisure and hospitality industries, as a consequence of concern that the government's COVID plan B has resulted in cancelled bookings and decreased business.
According to UKHospitality, a number of firms lost up to 60% of their revenue in December, which is typically their busiest month.
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According to The Guardian, Sunak said that the government was needing to intervene because “the spread of the Omicron variant means businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors are facing huge uncertainty, at a crucial time”.
The bailout package consists of four elements. This includes grants for hospitality and leisure businesses in England, worth up to £6,000 per premise and further grants for businesses in England worth £102m.
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The Treasury is also adding £30 million to the Cultural Recovery Fund, which helps museums and theatres and returning the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme, which allows small and medium-sized businesses to receive reimbursement from the government for the cost of sick pay for their staff.
It has still not been made explicitly clear whether and how nightclubs will be assisted if they are in need of any financial support through this programme.
Recently The Guardian reported that a number of nightlife businesses claim that they will have to close within a month if they do not receive financial aid from the government.
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In response to the announcement, Michael Kill, Chief Executive of the Night Time Industries Association told Mixmag: “Businesses are failing, people are losing their livelihoods and the industry is crippled.
"Mixed messaging, coupled with additional restrictions, have had a catastrophic impact on our sector over the last two weeks.
"At this critical point, we need strong leadership and a clear pathway from Government with a long term strategy for new COVID variants. The open/close strategy is crucifying businesses.
"Every pound of help is much needed. But this package is far too little and borders on the insulting.”
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Responding to the announcement, Sky News reports that Boris Johnson said: "With the surge in Omicron cases, people are rightly exercising more caution as they go about their lives, which is impacting our hospitality, leisure and cultural sectors at what is typically the busiest time of the year.
"That's why we're taking immediate action to help with an extra £1 billion in grants to these industries and reintroducing our Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme."
Last week, Boris Johnson said in a press conference that he will not be closing hospitality or stopping parties in England.
Aneesa Ahmed is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter