Chancellor brings forward £1billion support package for businesses affected by COVID-19

Sacha Lord has called it “an insult”

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed a £1billion support package for hospitality and leisure businesses affected by the recent surge of COVID-19 cases, however some industry leaders weren’t impressed.

Following days of lobbying from MPs and officials within the hospitality and leisure industries, the package will include one-off grants of £6000 for businesses in England which the Treasury expects will be administered by local authorities in the coming weeks.

The new measures will also use taxpayer’s cash to cover the cost of statutory sick pay for Covid-19-related absences for firms with fewer than 250 employees and cultural organisations can access an additional £30million via the cultural recovery fund.

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However, Sacha Lord, Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester and Parklife festival co-founder, called the measures “an insult”.

“It’s pathetic. Won’t even touch the sides or save jobs. We all need to continue to ramp up the pressure,” he said in a Tweet.

Over the past few weeks, the surge in Omicron cases has left the music industry in real trouble with venues and nightclubs “on the brink of collapse” without proper government support.

A new study by the Music Venue Trust has found a “catastrophic” drop in attendance as well as advance ticket sales and spend per head in grassroots music venues since the Government announced the implementation of the ‘Plan B’ restrictions.

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Speaking to NME, Beverley Whitrick, Strategic Director of MVT said: “This is the busiest time of the year for grassroots music venues, representing more than 20 per cent of their annual income being raised during the party season.”

“Rapid declines in attendance at this time of year represent an exponential threat to the whole sector, and losses of this magnitude cannot be sustained without throwing hundreds of music venues into crisis mode and at risk of permanent closure. A ‘no show’ isn’t just lost ticket income, it’s lost bar take and excess staff costs,” she added.

MVT CEO Mark Davyd said the current crisis threw venues back to “exactly where we were in March 2020“,  arguing that once again “confusing government messaging had created a ‘stealth lockdown’ with venues apparently able to open but in reality haemorrhaging money at a rate that will inevitably result in permanent closures unless the government acts quickly to prevent it.”

In order to help nightlife survive, the Night Time Industry Association is calling for the government to reinstate furlough for the first quarter of 2022.

This comes at a time when UK music venues are already facing £90million of debt due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

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