Busi­ness chiefs call for ex­tra sup­port

Prime Min­is­ter told more help is es­sen­tial to soften the blow of a ‘hospi­tal­ity lock­down in all but name’

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Rus­sell Lynch

FU­RI­OUS busi­ness chiefs have stepped up calls for far-reach­ing tax­payer sup­port as Boris John­son un­veiled a six­month Covid crack­down that could de­stroy thou­sands of com­pa­nies. Bosses and lobby groups said that fur­ther help was now es­sen­tial to pre­vent an eco­nomic col­lapse af­ter the Gov­ern­ment called for of­fice work­ers to stay at home and banned pubs and restau­rants from open­ing af­ter 10pm.

Kate Ni­cholls, boss of trade body UKHospi­tal­ity, said the change amounted to a “hospi­tal­ity lock­down in all but name”.

The Trea­sury is un­der­stood to be con­sid­er­ing fur­ther VAT and busi­ness rates de­fer­rals, as well as a much more re­stricted fur­lough scheme.

How­ever, no de­ci­sions have been made and the clock is tick­ing. In­dus­try lead­ers begged for fresh sup­port as An­drew Bai­ley, the Bank of Eng­land Gover­nor, called for a “re­think” on the fur­lough scheme, which is pro­tect­ing more than 3m jobs but is due to end on Oct 31.

Mr John­son said the Gov­ern­ment will be “throw­ing its arms” around busi- nesses and house­holds, while the Trea­sury said Rishi Su­nak, the Chan­cel­lor, is “ap­ply­ing his imag­i­na­tion and cre­ativ­ity” to help the worst-hit sec­tors.

But the PM’s cur­few on pubs and restau­rants and tighter lim­its on gath­er­ings to fight the virus were greeted with shock, with busi­ness lead­ers say­ing there was lit­tle con­sul­ta­tion and that de­tail was severely lack­ing ahead of the rule change tak­ing ef­fect to­mor­row.

Premier Inn owner Whit­bread and JD Wetherspoo­n be­came the lat­est to slash staff yes­ter­day, an­nounc­ing 6,500 job cuts be­tween them. A third of hospi­tal­ity firms’ an­nual sales hap­pen be­tween Hal­lowe’en and New Year’s Eve, mean­ing the re­stric­tions could push many com­pa­nies over the edge.

Ms Ni­cholls said: “To sug­gest that these mea­sures could be in place for an­other six months with­out any hint of sup­port for busi­nesses di­rectly af­fected was quite star­tling. Six months wipes out all of your Christ­mas trade.”

The Gov­ern­ment’s mes­sage to work from home is also likely to harm busi­nesses that de­pend on of­fice trade.

Bar­clays im­me­di­ately told hun­dreds of staff to work from home again, with other em­ploy­ers ex­pected to fol­low.

Mr Bai­ley told a Bri­tish Cham­bers of Com­merce we­bi­nar that con­tin­ued de­pen­dence on fur­lough in the hospi­tal­ity, re­tail and en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­tries most af­fected by so­cial dis­tanc­ing means it is sen­si­ble to “stop and re­think”.

He said: “We are liv­ing in a fast-evolv­ing world, cer­tainly this week, so it would be com­pletely in­ap­pro­pri­ate for me to tie the Chan­cel­lor’s hands. It is a very dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion we are in at the mo­ment.”

Kate Ni­cholls, boss of trade body UKHospi­tal­ity, said the prospect of a six-month lock­down was star­tling

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