Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about support for businesses in the night-time economy in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
I appreciate the concerns you raise. As the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) highlights, the sector is suffering particularly badly from the effects of the lockdown. Many businesses will continue to experience very serious difficulties in re-opening safely and viably as public health restrictions ease up. I share the NTIA’s concern that the industry faces a wave of closures and job losses unless the Government ensures sector specific support is made available.
I agree, for example, that support under the furlough scheme should be maintained for businesses that continue to be heavily affected by public health restrictions. It makes no sense for businesses without money coming in to have to pay increased contributions to furloughed staff, with no alternative support in place. If businesses that will have to remain closed such as nightclubs and entertainment venues must contribute to the costs of the scheme from August, workers could face mass redundancies. The Government should therefore abandon the “one-size-fits-all” approach to winding down the furlough scheme. Instead, for the hardest hit sectors it should only introduce the employer contribution at a slower rate and in tandem with changes in public health measures.
I also agree that the Government needs to address gaps in the existing support, such as the exclusion from grant funding of businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000. According to UKHospitality, 71% of hospitality activity takes place in premises above this threshold. Extending business support grants to businesses with higher rateable values, as well as companies in the wider night-time economy supply chain, could make a difference to tens of thousands of bars, restaurants and other businesses.
More widely, I believe the Government must bring forward an emergency budget this summer. It needs to stimulate economic demand without delay and focus above all on jobs – getting people back to work, protecting existing employment and creating new roles.
I can assure you that my Labour colleagues and I will continue to press the Government to provide support for businesses in the night-time economy.