Thank you for contacting me about the night time economy.
I appreciate that 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.
I have spoken with Ministers in detail about the curfew and other measures which were in place. I understand that they viewed the 10pm closing time as part of a package of measures that aimed to strike a balance between what is reasonable and proportionate to slow the spread of the virus and taking into account usual human behaviour. I agreed with Ministers that it was important to strike the right balance, however it must also be stressed that we need to review the effectiveness of restrictive measures regularly.
It is important that as 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 furlough scheme has protected the jobs of 11.5 million people and I welcome that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until the end of September. I welcome this vital support that has been provided to help businesses and individuals through the roadmap out of restrictions and beyond. Under the extension the government previously paid 80 per cent of wages up to a cap of £2,500, with employers paying employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and pension contributions only for the hours the employee does not work. As restrictions are eased and the economy begins to reopen, businesses will be asked to contribute alongside the taxpayer to the cost of paying their employees for hours not worked. Since 1 July 2021, the Government has paid 70 per cent of wages up to a maximum cap of £2187.50 for the hours the employee is on furlough.
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, ongoing 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, and £1.1 billion further discretionary grant funding for Local Authorities. As businesses reopen, under the one-off Restart Grants those in the non-essential retail sector may be eligible for grants of up to £6,000 while those in hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses may be eligible for grants of up to £18,000. These grants give businesses the cash certainty they need to plan ahead and safely relaunch trading over the coming months.
All retail, hospitality and leisure businesses also paid no business rates for this 2020-21 financial year, regardless of their rateable value. This relief applies to over 350,000 properties and is worth almost £10 billion.
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