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Wed 17th Mar 2021 - Parliamentary committee – hospitality sector has not seen sufficient data to underpin decisions relating to its industry
Parliamentary committee – hospitality sector has not seen sufficient data to underpin decisions relating to its industry: A report published earlier this week by the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee, looking into how well the government has used and shared data during the pandemic, has stated that “the hospitality and entertainment sectors have not seen sufficient data to underpin decisions relating to their industry”. The report entitled “Covid-19 and data driven decision making”, stated: “When speaking to business owners, a key frustration was that measures they had put in place in order to reopen after the first national lockdown, had not been taken into account when local lockdowns and tiering were brought in later in the year. They also raised concerns that there would be unintended consequences to the tiering decisions, such as people meeting in private households rather than at their covid-secure venues. The hospitality and entertainment sectors have not seen sufficient data to underpin decisions relating to their industry. Building trust with these sectors is absolutely essential and the level of transparency has been insufficient. The government should publish the data that underpins the restrictions that will remain in place on businesses at each step of the roadmap as a matter of urgency. Hyperlinks to this data must be included on pages explaining the restrictions.” Serial sector investor Hugh Osmond, who has joined Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, in a legal action to force a judicial review of the roadmap, demanding pubs and restaurants be allowed to have customers indoors from Monday, 12 April – the same date as non-essential shops reopen, tweeted: “The Parliamentary Committee seems to agree that Sacha Lord and I are right. Hospitality industry has been closed without any supporting evidence for the decision ever having been revealed.” Tweeting yesterday, Lord said: “We have clear, solid evidence, why indoor hospitality, with measures in place, should open at the same time as non-essential retail. We are safer, more secure, regulated and licensed. We are gaining momentum across the UK. It makes no sense to keep us shut. We’ll prove it.” Lord said that the government has until today (17 March) to respond to the legal challenge. Lord tweeted on Sunday: “Hospitality needs time to re order, staff up etc. We need decent advance notice about re-opening. With that in mind, we’ll ask that our case is expediated in the high court.”

SSP intends to raise £475m through rights issue: UK-based travel hub foodservice company SSP Group has announced its intention to raise circa £475m by way of a fully underwritten rights issue. Alongside this, the group said it has secured the extension of its bank facilities that were previously due to mature in July 2022 to January 2024, and secured waivers and modifications of the existing covenants under those bank facilities and its US private placement notes. It said the measures will significantly strengthen its “financial position and resilience, and will position SSP for the next phase of the pandemic”. The company said the measures will protect the business if the global travel sector experiences a more prolonged recovery from the pandemic, whilst under SSP’s base case scenario, they will strengthen the group’s balance sheet and provide increased capacity for investment as the travel market recovers. Simon Smith, chief executive of SSP, said: “Over the past year the group has experienced an unprecedented period of disruption in the travel sector. Early and extensive action has enabled us to protect the business and put ourselves in the best possible position to emerge strongly as the market recovers. Strengthening the balance sheet now will underpin the business if the recovery in the travel sector is slower than we anticipate and it gives us the capacity to invest in growth opportunities as we emerge from the pandemic. Our current expectation is that the early recovery will be led by domestic and leisure travel from which we are well-placed to benefit. We are ready to re-open rapidly, welcome back our teams, and provide our travelling customers with a great service when they return. Looking further ahead, the actions we’re taking will allow us to capitalise on the recovery as well as future new business opportunities, enabling us to deliver long term sustainable growth for the benefit of all our stakeholders.” SSP expects a near full return of passenger numbers to pre-covid levels by financial year 2024 led by a rebound in domestic and leisure short-haul air and rail travel.

McDonald’s investigates after staff say lives at risk by failure to follow covid safety rules: McDonald’s UK has started an internal investigation after whistleblowing workers claimed covid rules were being ignored in some of its restaurants. Workers at restaurants in Kent, Merseyside and Greater Manchester told Sky News that stores have been repeatedly breaking their own health and safety rules during the winter wave of covid-19. The fast-food chain said the accounts were “deeply concerning” and vowed to work with safety experts to ensure “robust safety measures are in place and being followed”. McDonald’s restaurants are currently drive-thru only but employees in different parts of the country have reported how staff temperatures are now often not checked, social distancing screens aren’t always used and that they can’t wash their hands every 30 minutes. One female staff member in Greater Manchester, who spoke to Sky News anonymously, said: “I think the management are working as if we are not in a pandemic right now. My temperature isn’t checked at the start of every shift when it should be, in my store nobody really socially distances. People hug and there is no sort of discipline by the managers for these people that are just breaching the rules. In my store they (colleagues) hug because they think it’s funny, but it really isn’t. I’m scared to go to work because I live with two people who are clinically vulnerable.” A McDonald’s spokesperson said: “We continue to work hard with our franchisees and third-party safety experts to ensure robust safety measures are in place and being followed, to help protect our people and customers. We have regularly reviewed and updated these procedures since the start of the pandemic. We are deeply concerned to hear this feedback, and while we are confident this relates to a very small number of the 130,000 people we employ across the UK and Ireland, we strongly believe that every one of our employees should feel safe within the workplace. We are investigating the issues raised as a matter of urgency, and strongly encourage any of our employees with concerns to raise these using the various channels we have in place.”

Britons will go on £50bn spending spree when covid rules are lifted: Britons are planning to use a hefty chunk of the savings built up over the past year to go on a £50bn spending spree once restrictions are lifted, a report has said. According to The Guardian, research by the Isa provider Scottish Friendly and the consultancy, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), found that households intend to take more holidays at home and abroad, travel, and go out to eat in cafes and restaurants. The report said a quarter of the £192bn of lockdown savings accumulated since the pandemic curbed activity in the UK in March 2020 would be spent. The authors of the report’s estimate that 26% of the savings would be spent was the result of studying 50 years of savings data and interviewing 4,000 people. They warned that strong demand as the economy reopened could cause a headache for the Bank by pushing inflation above the government’s 2% target. Restrictions meant many households (46%) had accumulated higher savings in the past year, and these would now be run down to more normal levels. More than a third (34%) of those who planned to spend more money this year said their cash would go towards travel and accommodation for overseas holidays, while 29% of those with extra savings said they intended to spend more on domestic holidays in 2021. Spending on eating out last year was boosted by the government’s August Eat-Out-To-Help-Out scheme, but the report said irrespective of whether the incentive was reintroduced this year, 28% of people plan to up their spending in restaurants and cafes. Kevin Brown, savings specialist at Scottish Friendly said: “The extra cash that many Brits have been fortunate enough to save over the past 12 months has been sitting idle in bank accounts while people wait for restrictions to be lifted. A large proportion of Brits clearly intend to enjoy the opportunity to finally spend some of that cash over the coming months on holidays, meals out and in the shops. This will provide a welcome boost for many businesses, but it could lead to a sharp spike in prices during the remainder of 2021, which risks hurting many savers.”

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