Independent Leeds businesses say Rishi Sunak's £1 billion Omicron support offer is not enough

The owners of independent Leeds businesses say Rishi Sunak's offer of  a £1 billion  support package to businesses is not enough and say they need more help.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 4:40 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 4:48 pm
Rishi Sunak

Photo: Stefan Rousseau, PA Wire/PA Images
Rishi Sunak Photo: Stefan Rousseau, PA Wire/PA Images

The Chancellor has offered additional help for the hospitality and leisure sectors in England following days of urgent lobbying from MPs, firms and industry officials amid concerns over the "eye-wateringly high" transmission of the Omicron variant.

Read More

Read More
13 pictures from inside Leeds Covid Vaccination Centre at Elland Road as booster...

It includes one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the affected sectors in England, which the Treasury expects will be administered by local authorities and to be available in the coming weeks.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The Government also intends to use taxpayers' cash to cover the cost of statutory sick pay for Covid-related absences for firms with fewer than 250 employees.

Cultural organisations in England can also access a further £30 million funding during the winter via the culture recovery fund, the Treasury said.

Jamie Ooin of independent Leeds Asian street food vendor Little Bao Boy, said: "The up to £6,000 doesn't cover half my wages.

"12.5 per cent VAT of zero sales is still zero. Furlough needs to be reinstated to fully support us.

"A clear plan so we are business owners are also able to plan, also talking to industry leaders who are the owners of nandos and pizza express doesn't represent the majority of hospitality owners In the country."

Stu Butterworth of Chow Down, said: "Once again the support falls short of the mark and will leave many businesses on a knife's edge for their future survival.

"This is especially relevant given that there has been no announcement around restrictions.

"From our perspective we will continue to operate as normal (until told otherwise) hosting guests safely in our outdoor heated spaces. Due to cancellations we have extra availability through our remaining dates"

A spokesperson for Chapel Allerton-based Dapur Malaysia, said: "Good that they have step up to help, but really disappointed with the way it's being handled.

"The lack of clarity and the never ending leaks is quite torturous. I have stopped reading the news as it's not good for me mentally or for my staff.

"We have had just six months of "normal" trading since we opened, so almost 2 years in either some sort of lockdown or open with restrictions.”

Simon Fogal, of Leeds Indie Food, said: “It has been a couple of weeks since the announcement of work from home and we have seen people follow suit with thousands and thousands of cancelled Christmas parties and bookings across the whole sector.

"I spoke to Sarto yesterday and the Saturday just gone, they didn’t have a single walk-in and had four tables on a Saturday night.

"It isn’t fair on the hospitality industry to take this further hit with really bad advice from central government.

"Clear guidance is needed not relay on us as business owners to choose what is morally right to do, as many are doing it so they can have Christmas dinner with their family.

"The same hit is being seen with the leisure sector with theatres and music venues all seeing massive drop outs. Who could survive 30 to 60 per cent drop in sales?

"The new support package which is likely to be £2.7K for most Indies, doesn’t really cover anything, but again the stress and pressure on the business owners is enormous and at a time when it should be the busiest time of year”

Nat Edwards, chief executive of the Thackray Museum of Medicine, said: “It’s great to see the Chancellor’s continuing commitment to support museums and other cultural venues but, let’s be honest, £30m isn't going to stretch very far and it's certainly going to pale into insignificance against the damage of any further public restrictions.

"What we need most of all is for people to fall back in love with visiting museums.

"That's all about rediscovering confidence, freedom and the value of museums like ours that can give a long view of the history of the public fight against disease and offer fresh perspectives on how we fight it in the future.

"That will take more than bail outs - we need investment on a structural scale and we need a National conversation about the value of culture post Covid."

Mr Sunak's announcement follows crisis talks with business leaders after he cut short a Government business trip to California.

Businesses have seen takings plummet due to Christmas festivities being scaled back amid fear over the spread of Omicron.

It comes as Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the global charitable foundation Wellcome, warned "we're in the most difficult, most uncertain time, perhaps of the whole pandemic, certainly since March of 2020".

Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine at the University of East Anglia (UEA), also said the previous rapid increase in cases appears to be slowing and, if that is true, there is no need for a lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said of the new funding: "With the surge in Omicron cases, people are rightly exercising more caution as they go about their lives, which is impacting our hospitality, leisure and cultural sectors at what is typically the busiest time of the year.

"That's why we're taking immediate action to help with an extra £1 billion in grants to these industries and reintroducing our Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme.

"I urge people across the country to please get boosted now to secure vital protection for yourselves, your loved ones and your communities."

Mr Sunak added: "We recognise that the spread of the Omicron variant means businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors are facing huge uncertainty, at a crucial time.

"So we're stepping in with £1 billion of support, including a new grant scheme, the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and further funding released through the culture recovery fund."

Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.