I appreciate my constituents’ concerns on this crucial issue. Pubs are a vital part of our high streets and social fabric in communities throughout the country. But they have been hit extremely hard by the pandemic. The current lockdown comes on top of the serious cash crisis many pubs will be facing after months of extremely difficult trading conditions, tough restrictions and closures over the crucial Christmas period. I therefore agree that it is vital that we ensure the package of economic measures supports businesses through the crisis and reflects the severity of restrictions.
Unfortunately, I believe the support currently available for pubs is inadequate. Businesses will receive much less in grant support now than they did during the first national lockdown. Other measures, meanwhile, such as loans, tax deferrals and rent moratoriums were designed for a much shorter period than the year or more of closures and lost trade pubs could now be facing. And while the extension of the furlough scheme is welcome, hospitality businesses are nevertheless facing a cash crisis – more than half have less than three months of cash reserves left, while only one in five has enough to survive until March.
With several critical deadlines approaching – including the end of business rates and VAT holidays, and repayments for Government-backed loan schemes – it is crucial that the Government provides the support necessary to ensure that the hospitality industry does not face a cliff edge of insolvencies and redundancies.
Supporting pubs is not only the right thing to do morally, because they have closed to keep us safe, but also the right thing to do economically. Every previously viable business that collapses will make our recovery from the crisis more difficult. I can assure you that I will continue to back calls for cash support that matches pubs’ business need and revenue loss, immediate action on approaching deadlines and a proper long-term plan for this hugely important sector.