Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about support for the hospitality and events industries in response to the coronavirus pandemic. I know that the pandemic has been particularly difficult for some sectors and that the hospitality and events industries have been particularly impacted by the public health restrictions in place since March. I know that many businesses locally have gone to significant lengths to ensure that they can reopen as safely and as viably as possible in a way that complies with public health restrictions but are facing uncertain futures.
This month UKHospitality warned that pubs, clubs and restaurants are set to lose more than 500,000 jobs by Christmas. In normal times these are viable businesses and jobs and that is 500,000 people’s livelihoods under threat due to the Government’s one-size-fits-all approach to support. Workers in sectors like hospitality should not be treated in the same way as those in sectors already back to full capacity and who are not affected by further public health restrictions. I continue to urge the Government to respond to the specific challenges these industries are facing and provide targeted support through extension of the furlough scheme beyond October 31st to avoid mass unemployment. I also remain concerned that general support such as the £1000 job retention bonus risks wasting billions of pounds on businesses that do not need it, while hard-pressed sectors like the night-time economy do not get the help they require.
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 hospitality and events supply chain, could make a difference to tens of thousands of bars, restaurants and other businesses.
Above all, the Government needs to get transmission of the virus under control. Labour have spent months calling for an effective test, track and isolate system in place as a key part of the strategy to allow us all to maintain some semblance of normal life whilst we await a vaccine. Unfortunately, the current outsourced testing system is far from the ‘world-beating’ system we were promised by the Prime Minister in March. The Government should use a circuit-breaker to enable councils and local public health teams to run the contact tracing system. In the latest weekly figures, local protection teams have traced 97.1% of close contacts and the Government should provide councils the resources to allow them to utilise their local knowledge and effectively control transmission of the virus.