Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled a £1 billion fund designed to support the UK hospitality sector as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 disrupts the festive season.
Under the plans, the government will provide one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England.
At what is often their most profitable time of year, many pubs and restaurants have seen cancellations and reduced footfall as people have responded to the rise in cases ahead of Christmas.
Hospitality UK has reported many businesses have lost 40-60 per cent of their December trade, often their most profitable month.
Around 200,000 businesses will be eligible for business grants which will be administered by local authorities and will be available in the coming weeks.
Sunak said: “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 are 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.”
To support other businesses impacted by Omicron – such as those who supply the hospitality and leisure sectors – the government is also giving a more than £100 million boost to the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) fund for local authorities in England.
Local Authorities will have discretion to allocate this funding to businesses most in need.
The ARG top up will be prioritised for those local authorities that have distributed the most of their existing allocation.
This is on top of the £250 million of previously allocated funding that remains with local authorities.
As increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases means more workers taking time off work, the government is also reintroducing the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS).
The SSPRS will help small and medium-sized employers – those with fewer than 250 employees – by reimbursing them for the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for Covid-related absences, for up to two weeks per employee.
Firms will be eligible for the scheme from today and they will be able to make claims retrospectively from mid-January.
To provide continued support to the cultural sector, £30 million further funding will be made available through the Culture Recovery Fund to support organisations such as theatres, orchestras and museums through the winter to March.
This figure will build on nearly £240 million of cultural grant support already allocated this financial year or currently available for organisations to bid for.
As part of this support announced today, the devolved administrations will receive around £150 million of funding through the Barnett formula, comprising around £80 million for the Scottish government, £50 million for the Welsh government and £25 million for the Northern Ireland executive.
Image: Louis Hansel