Thank you for contacting me about the night time economy.
It has been a particularly challenging time for many sectors of our economy, including those operating in the night time industry, as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. I sympathise with anyone who is currently facing redundancy during this difficult time. Throughout the pandemic I know that the Government has been working with local leaders to target outbreaks, and to put in place comprehensive support during national restrictions.
Recent developments have put pressure on businesses across the country. That is why I welcome that businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England will be eligible for one-off grants of up to £6,000. Further, more than £100 million discretionary funding for local authorities to support other businesses. The Government will also cover the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for absences due to Covid for small and medium-sized employers across the country.
It is important that as the economy begins to recover, and it is safe for businesses reopen and staff to return to work, that there is a welcoming and safe night time economy. The night time economy is hugely important to entertainment and culture in the UK, and it is the British economy's fifth largest sector.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was a temporary, economy-wide measure designed to support businesses while widespread restrictions were in place. I welcomed the several extensions to the CJRS, including the final extension to the end of September, which achieved the right balance between supporting the economy as it opened up, and continuing to provide support and protect incomes. This ensured that incentives were in place to get people back to work as demand returned.
Businesses can continue to benefit from financial support through the Recovery Loan Scheme which enables eligible businesses to apply for loans between £25,000 and £10 million with an 80 per cent Government guarantee. Once received, the finance can be used for any legitimate business purpose, including growth and investment. I was encouraged that the Chancellor extended this scheme in the Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021 until 30 June 2022. The scheme is now only open to small and medium sized enterprises, with the maximum amount of finance available set at £2 million per business and the guarantee coverage that the Government can provide to lenders has now been reduced to 70 per cent.
Further support has included one-off top up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses forced to close worth up to £9,000 per property, Local Restriction Support Grants for closed businesses worth up to £3,000 a month per property, a £594 million discretionary fund to support other impacted businesses, a £1.1 billion further discretionary grant funding for Local Authorities, and one-off Restart Grants of up to £6,000 in the non-essential retail sector and up to £18,000 for hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses.
All retail, hospitality and leisure businesses also paid no business rates for the 2020-21 financial year, regardless of their rateable value and a 50 per cent business rates discount for companies in retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors for the year 2022-23. This relief applied to over 350,000 properties and is worth almost £10 billion.
Covid-19 NHS Pass
As you are aware, when the Omicron variant began to dominate, the Government decided to enact the ‘Plan B’ measures which it said were needed to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed. This decision was based on three claims made by the Government: the dramatically increased transmissibility of the variant; the unknown severity of Omicron; and the likelihood of lower immunity from vaccination compared to past variants.
These regulations made the NHS COVID Pass mandatory for nightclub entry, or indeed any venue where large crowds gather (including unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people).
I am glad that, after a review of the latest data, the Prime Minister has announced that Plan B restrictions will be removed from Wednesday 26 January and will revert to Plan A measures set out in the Autumn and Winter Plan. This includes the end of the compulsory use of Covid-status certification in England.
Currently, the NHS COVID Pass can be obtained with two doses of a vaccine, though the Government will review this as boosters continue to be rolled out. Further, a negative lateral flow test will be sufficient evidence to demonstrate COVID-status.
The Government’s Hospitality Strategy will enable the sector to build back better from the pandemic. The Strategy focuses on reopening, recovery and resilience, including further support for businesses reopening, with an additional £5 billion worth of grants. Ministers will work with the Government-owned British Business Bank and its delivery partners to support access to finance. I also welcome that, following a review, the Government will reduce the burden of business rates in England by over £7 billion over the next five years, and make the system fairer, more responsive and more supportive of investment. Up to 400,000 retail, hospitality and leisure properties will be eligible for a new, temporary £1.7 billion of business rates relief this year. This will provide support until the next revaluation, helping the businesses that make UK high streets and town centres successful evolve and adapt to changing consumer demands.
I am confident that this strategy, alongside the Government’s High Streets Strategy and its Tourism Recovery Plan, will play a key role in levelling up every part of the UK.
Looking ahead, the Prime Minister has stated that all current regulations related to Covid-19 will be reviewed by 24 March, subject to data and evidence on transmission of the virus.
I will continue to raise industry-specific concerns at the highest level to make sure that the Government is aware and I will follow any developments closely.
Thank you again for taking the time to me.
Craig Whittaker MP