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Sat 14th Mar 2020 - UKHospitality demands greater government support as businesses face existential threat from coronavirus
UKHospitality demands greater government support as businesses face existential threat from coronavirus with footfall down 30%: UKHospitality has called on the government to step up its support for businesses as the effect of coronavirus continues to spread with high-street UK footfall down on average almost 30%. The trade body has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak to say the package of measures announced in the Budget on Wednesday (11 March) “did not go nearly far enough” to support the vast majority of hospitality businesses, who are in the eye of the storm – facing falling revenues, diminished profits and a pending cash crunch. Highlighting the existential risk to hospitality businesses across the board, UKHospitality has outlined the need for far stronger measures from the government to avert job losses and business failures. This includes immediately suspending business rates payments for all hospitality businesses for this year; extending Statutory Sick Pay coverage to hospitality businesses of all sizes; and short-terms subsidies of staff wages where trade falls markedly. It added industry suppliers, including landlords, must also be discouraged from pursuing businesses for arrears. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The hospitality sector is facing a unique short-term cash flow catastrophe as customers are advised to stay away. Government must support businesses of all sizes through this period so we can bounce back and continue to be at the heart of our communities. Business rates must be suspended immediately. Cash in the bank to continue to pay staff is the absolute priority for businesses. We also need extraordinary measures from government to support our colleagues. There is likely to be a significant short-term fall in demand. government should step in and cover wage costs so our staff can continue to look after themselves and so businesses will still be there to provide them with employment when the country gets back on its feet.” The letter comes as figures from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social showed high-street footfall has dropped almost 30% on average across the UK resulting in the first sector businesses closing. Footfall figures for yesterday (Friday, 13 March) were down 29% year-on-year, according to the data. Wireless Social’s analysis has taken an aggregated look at footfall in more than 800 venues nationally, focusing mainly on major cities. The data revealed footfall in Newcastle dropped 35% compared with the previous year with London seeing a 31% fall and Birmingham just behind with a 30% decline. Edinburgh saw a 29% drop with Manchester seeing a 24% year-on-year decline. Meanwhile, Liverpool was down 22%, Cardiff by 19% and Bristol by 18%. Wireless Social said over the past seven days there has been a 22% drop in footfall compared with the same period last year. The declining footfall has resulted in the first closures and redundancies by businesses being reported to UKHospitality while Deliciously Ella, the deli in London’s Mayfair owned by vegan blogger Ella Mills, has temporarily closed. Mills told The Daily Mail: “It's been a very tough week, and making decisions like this is the worst part of running a business.” She declined to say if staff would continue to be paid. Wireless Social chief executive Julian Ross said: “I can see the data coming in in real-time. Customers are not going out; restaurants and bars are struggling. The budget announced this week has not recognised the impact on larger operators and the many people employed by them. Our hospitality businesses run the risk of closure. I echo Kate Nicholls’ request to government to intervene immediately to protect businesses and jobs.” The government is expected to step up measures as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK rose from 790 to 1,140, while the total number of deaths has almost doubled in the past 24 hours, going up from 11 to 21.


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