Takings are plummeting at hospitality, retail and leisure businesses in Liverpool city region amid the omicron crisis and Liverpool and Southport BIDs have joined a national call for urgent Government support. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool and Southport BIDs have joined a national call for urgent Government support for the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors as takings plummet amid a new COVID surge.
Despite warnings from its advisory body SAGE about the fast-moving spread of the omicron variant, the Government has yet to impose any restrictions on shops, bars and restaurants, although people need a COVID pass or negative test for nightclubs.
However, under his ‘Plan B’ Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged people to avoid crowded venues to limit the spread of the variant and this is already causing disruption and a loss of takings for many high street businesses.
Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have been established around the country in the last few years to represent the interests of hospitality, retail and leisure businesses. Now Liverpool and Southport BIDs, as well as Chester, have joined other BIDs nationally to call for additional support from Chancellor Rishi Sunak. They are asking for:
- 100% cap on business rates relief until March 31, 2022.
- Reduced rate of VAT to12.5%.
- Grants of 15k to support businesses.
The fourth quarter of each year, including the festive season, typically accounts for 50% of takings in the sector. BIDS now fear many businesses will “sink” if no support comes while the so-called “stealth lockdown” continues. A real lockdown is also a possibility in the coming days.
This latest call follows a plea from the leaders of Liverpool city region’s six local authorities on Friday, led by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, for more business support to offset the impact of the omicron variant.
And a new survey from accountancy firm Grant Thornton shows a dip in business confidence among businesses in the North West. Its Business Outlook Tracker surveys mid-market businesses and it reveals 19% of firms in the region are now “pessimistic” about the future of the UK economy.
BIDs are also calling on the Government to have a greater understanding of how the impact is being felt on the ground in towns and cities across the country. Footfall in Liverpool city centre in the final two weeks of November was 1.4m a week.
In the first two weeks of December it has dropped to 1.2m a week. The first week of December was down -24% on 2019, the benchmark year it is taking to track the impact of COVID.
The letter, sent to both the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, says: “We are writing to you on behalf of over 100 destinations across the UK and 100,000 retail, hospitality and leisure businesses to urge Government to provide a #BusinessBooster and urgent assurances that financial support will be provided to these sectors.
“It is imperative that the Government acts quickly by offering financial assistance and other necessary interventions to those experiencing disruption following rising cases of the Omicron variant and the impact of Plan B measures.
“With consumer confidence expected to drop below its current level of -15 amid growing speculation of an impending lockdown, the time for action is now.
“There is clearly growing concern of a lockdown following the announcement of Plan B restrictions on December 8, which must be reviewed on December 29, two days prior to New Year’s Eve. Businesses need certainty with many holding on to the glimmer of hope that New Year may bring.”