Tech news
Saturday, Mar 25, 2023

Sunak accused of not doing enough to help Omicron-hit businesses

Chancellor announces £1bn package mostly for hospitality and leisure firms but refuses to revive furlough

Rishi Sunak has been accused of failing to do enough to help embattled hospitality businesses through the Omicron wave after refusing to bring back furlough for the hardest-hit firms.

Succumbing to intense pressure to offer financial support amid a collapse in pre-Christmas trade for pubs, restaurants and hotels, the chancellor announced a £1bn bailout package on Tuesday consisting of business grants and help with sick pay.

However, it drew an angry response from bosses who told Sunak he was failing to grasp the severity of the Omicron shock to the economy and that a lack of clarity from the government over the need for further pandemic restrictions was making matters worse.

Comparing the plan to a “dud cracker on Christmas Day”, Tim Rumney, the chief executive of the Best Western hotel chain, which employs 10,000 staff in the UK, said a return to furlough was vital if the current Covid wave continues.

“It’s just so disappointing and underwhelming in every sense. It doesn’t go far enough in our opinion, it doesn’t go deep enough and it’s too little too late,” he said.

Michael Kill, the chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said a stuttering open/close approach to government restrictions was “crucifying business” during a pivotal period for trading before Christmas.

“Every pound of help is much needed. But this package is far too little and borders on the insulting,” he said.

Sunak said the government was intervening because “the spread of the Omicron variant means businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors are facing huge uncertainty, at a crucial time”.

The bailout package comprises four elements:

*  Grants for hospitality and leisure businesses in England, worth up to £6,000 per premise. The Treasury has set aside £683m for these payments, which will be administered through local authorities and will be available in the coming weeks.

*  Further grants for businesses in England, worth £102m, intended to help businesses most in need, and again administered through local authorities.

*  The resumption of the statutory sick pay rebate scheme, which will reimburse employers in the UK with fewer than 250 workers for the cost of paying statutory sick pay for Covid-related absences for up to two weeks.

*  An extra £30m for arts organisations , paid through the culture recovery fund.

In addition, the Scottish government will receive £150m, the Welsh government £50m and the Northern Ireland executive £25m under the Barnett formula to offset the England-only spending.

Britain’s biggest business lobby groups broadly welcomed the plan hammered out after meetings with Treasury officials over recent days, although several other trade groups, large firms, Labour and unions criticised the lack of substance.

It follows pressure on the chancellor to reboot the multibillion-pound furlough job support scheme to cushion the financial blow for firms and to help workers amid a worsening economic outlook and a cost of living squeeze.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said the measures announced by the chancellor amounted to “abandoning” workers ahead of Christmas and as the pandemic worsened.

“The economic support measures announced today are not conditional on employers keeping workers on and covering their wages. And they do nothing to fix the gaping holes in our sick pay system,” she said.

The Treasury’s statutory sick pay rebate scheme covers employers’ costs, rather than supporting an employee directly, and does not boost the amount available. The TUC estimates 238,000 hospitality workers – about one in six of the workforce – do not qualify for statutory sick pay.

“Millions of workers will go into Christmas worrying for their jobs and anxious about what they will do if asked to self-isolate. The chancellor must go back to the drawing board,” O’Grady said.

No firm has been legally required to close under plan B, which was announced by Boris Johnson for England earlier this month and which extended the use of face masks, required Covid passes for some venues and encouraged working from home.

But the move to plan B was quickly followed by advice from Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, that people should limit their socialising over Christmas to people and events that “really matter” and this, combined with a surge in Covid cases, led to dramatic falls in the number of people going to pubs, restaurants and shows.

The measures announced by the Treasury on Tuesday are intended to compensate for the loss of earnings that businesses are already suffering.

Ministers have not ruled out imposing further restrictions on socialising after Christmas, which could lead to calls for a further bailout for hospitality.

When Sunak was asked in an interview if businesses would be offered more support if the rules tightened again in the coming days, he gave a non-committal answer.

He said he would always respond “proportionately and appropriately”, but he said the business grants he was announcing were “comparable to the grants that we provided for hospitality businesses when they were completely closed earlier this year”, and said other help for business was already in place until the spring.

Shevaun Haviland, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the measures were “a positive starting point” that would provide “some welcome respite” to firms hardest hit by the latest Covid wave.

But she urged the Treasury to ensure grants were paid out quickly, and said more help may be needed. “If restrictions persist or are tightened further, then we would need to see a wider support package, equal to the scale of any new measures, put in place,” she said.


Related Articles

Donald Trump arrested – Twitter goes wild with doctored pictures
Credit Suisse's Scandalous History Resulted in an Obvious Collapse - It's time for regulators who fail to do their job to be held accountable and serve as an example by being behind bars.
Russian Hackers Preparing New Cyber Assault Against Ukraine
A brief banking situation report
Elon Musk Is Planning To Build A Town In Texas For His Employees
The Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse effect is spreading around the world, affecting startup companies across the globe
Market Chaos as USDC Loses Peg to USD after $3.3 Billion Reserves Held by Silicon Valley Bank Closed.
Banking regulators close SVB, the largest bank failure since the financial crisis
In a major snub to Downing Street's Silicon Valley dreams, UK chip giant Arm has dealt a serious blow to the government's economic strategy by opting for a US listing
It's the question on everyone's lips: could a four-day workweek be the future of employment?
Corruption and Influence Buying Uncovered in International Mainstream Media: Investigation Reveals Growing Disinformation Mercenaries
Being a Tiktoker might be expensive…
China's top tech firms, including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, NetEase, and, are developing their own versions of Open AI's AI-powered chatbot, ChatGPT
This shocking picture, showing how terrible is the results of the earthquake in Turkey
The desk of King Carlos Alberto of Sardinia has many secret compartments
Charlie Munger, calls for a ban on cryptocurrencies in the US, following China's lead
First generation unopened iPhone set to fetch more than $50,000 at auction.
Almost 30% of professionals say they've tried ChatGPT at work
Interpol seeks woman who ran elaborate exam cheating scam in Singapore
What is ChatGPT?
Tesla reported record profits and record revenues for 2022
Microsoft is finalising plans to become the latest technology giant to reduce its workforce during a global economic slowdown
Tesla slashes prices globally by as much as 20 percent
After Failing To Pay Office Rent, Twitter May Sell User Names
FTX fraud investigators are digging deeper into Sam Bankman-Fried's inner circle – and reportedly have ex-engineer Nishad Singh in their sights
TikTok CEO Plans to Meet European Union Regulators
U.S. Moves to Seize Robinhood Shares, Silvergate Accounts Tied to FTX
Coinbase to Pay $100 Million in Settlement With New York Regulator
FTX assets worth $3.5bn held by Bahamas securities regulator
Former FTX CEO Bankman-Fried finally arrested in Bahamas after U.S. files charges
Corruption works: House Financial Services Chair Waters doesn't plan to subpoena her donor, Sam Bankman-Fried, to testify at hearing on FTX collapse
Yellen hints at ‘national security’ probe into Twitter purchase
Elon Musk reinstates Donald Trump's Twitter account.
George W. Bush and Barack Obama will hold back-to-back disinformation conferences
Solar + Powerwall ensures you never lose power, even if the grid goes down
This man paid for strangers' grocery and it moved them to tears
Meta introduces a new version of Mark Zuckerberg
Virtual Reality on billboards: BMW advertisement on Times Square
Apple CEO Tim Cook says coding should be taught as early as elementary school: 'It's the most important language you can learn'
Apple Executive Resigns After Viral TikTok Shows Him Making Crude Jokes
Huawei is not only better technology, but also protecting users better: Apple Warns Of Security Flaw For Iphones, Ipads And Macs
Mark Zuckerberg warns many teams will ‘shrink’ as Meta revenue drops
Elon Musk reportedly begged for forgiveness after his affair with Google co-founder Sergey Brin's wife
J.P. Morgan’s wealth management guru has some advice for recent college graduates on managing money and building wealth
Pentagon widens scope of UFO-hunting unit
Bezos' girlfriend Lauren Sanchez gives $1M to group focused on migrant kids at US-Mexico border
Hong Kong gets its first metaverse churches with avatars and virtual preachers
The ‘Dirty Quid Pro Quo’ Between Democrats and Big Tech
Elon Musk swore in March not to sell any Bitcoin, but Tesla cashed out 75% of its Bitcoin holdings amid the crypto winter just months later
Crypto winter continues at Gemini as another round of layoffs hits Winklevoss crypto exchange