Sunak offers £1bn business lifeline

Just 24 hours after Liverpool and Southport BIDs appealed for more help for hospitality businesses Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £1bn lifeline for the sector. Tony McDonough reports

Rishi Sunak
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is offering a £1bn lifeline


Chancellor Rishi Sunak is offering a £1bn lifeline to small firms with grants of up to £6,000 each.

It comes following heavy lobbying, particularly from the UK’s hospitality sector which has been hit badly by a rapid rise in cases of the COVID variant. Under the Government’s plan B there are few formal restrictions on hospitality but many customers are staying away.

And with the possibility of stricter regulations being introduced over Christmas there is much anxiety about the survival of bars, cafes and restaurants.

On Monday, Liverpool and Southport BIDs joined other BIDs across the UK in calling for more support for hospitality, retail and leisure businesses which have seen their takings plummet in the past couple of weeks. 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.

In an announcement on Tuesday the Chancellor didn’t go that far but it will still provide a lifeline for some businesses. He also said it would help some companies with the cost of sick pay for COVID-related absences. And he is setting aside a further £30m to support theatres and museums.

Mr Sunak said:  “I know the situation is difficult especially for those of you in the hospitality industry. So I am announcing three new measures today. Firstly, to protect jobs and businesses in the hospitality and leisure sector I am introducing a new package of grants.

“And we’re topping up local council funding by £100m so they can support other local businesses at their discretion. Second we are making available £30m through our successful culture recovery fund to support theatres and museums.

“Lastly, across the whole UK we’re reintroducing our rebate scheme for statutory sick pay. Currently if someone needs time off because of COVID it’s businesses that cover the cost of the statutory sick pay. Under our new scheme SMEs with fewer than 250 employees will be able to claim a cash rebate from Government to cover those costs for two weeks.

Paul Cherpeau, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, said this latest support package from the Chancellor will provide “an enormously welcome relief for businesses in leisure and hospitality”.

Paul Cherpeau
Paul Cherpeau, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. Picture by Gareth Jones
Liverpool, Christmas, 2021
Shoppers in Liverpool city centre on Tuesday afternoon. Picture by Activate Digital


He added: “We are pleased that the Government has heard our calls for additional grant funding for businesses in those sectors and we would also urge them to extend support to operators in the live events supply chain, which have also suffered significantly during December.

“Greater flexibility on tax payments means businesses can have some breathing space and the measures around sick pay will give operators greater confidence to keep going if and when key members of their team test positive for the virus.

“It is important now that this support reaches affected businesses as swiftly and efficiently as possible in order to minimise the severity of the damage they are experiencing and ensure the impact does not become terminal.”

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