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Tue 19th Jan 2021 - Update: Karen Jones, call for immediate £7.6bn injection
Karen Jones sole hospitality sector representative on government’s new Business Council: Karen Jones, current chair of Prezzo, Hawksmoor and Mowgli, has been appointed as the sole hospitality sector representative on the government’s new Business Council. Jones, who co-founded Food & Fuel and Cafe Rouge, and is the former chief executive of the Spirit pub group, is one of 30 council members on the Build Back Better Council, that has been established to work with the government to fuel covid-19 economic recovery and future growth plans. The council comprises members representing industries from retail and hospitality, to finance, science and technology. It will be co-chaired by the prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak, with the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng as a standing member, and other cabinet ministers attending as required. At the first meeting, which took place virtually, the prime minister updated leaders on the current covid-19 situation, including the vaccine roll-out, as well as plans to rebuild the economy after the crisis has passed. Council members will share their views on the economy, provide a commercial perspective on policy and highlight obstacles and solutions to economic recovery. Other council members include Ken Murphy, chief executive of Tesco; Dame Sharon White, chair of John Lewis Partnership; and Ronan Harris, managing director of Google UK and Ireland. Despite Jones taking a place on the council, there was some frustration that the sector wasn’t more represented on the new council. William Lees-Jones, managing director of JW Lees, tweeted: “Another missed opportunity to engage with pubs and hospitality to build back better”. Sacha Lord, night-time adviser for Greater Manchester, tweeted: “What a kick in the teeth for the night time economy. No representation for the fifth biggest industry in the UK. Just bankers, financiers and large scale corporate chief executives. What about the independents? The heart of our high streets. Completely insulting.” Paul Pavli, sector consultant and former managing director of Punch Taverns, tweeted: “It’s great that Karen is on this, but we have so many other brilliant owners/chief executives that would add value, from the sector that pre-covid was the third largest employer, paid £39bn in Tax and created one in six new jobs. Boris Johnson we need more representation from the hospitality sector.”

Business can’t wait until 3 March for more help, Chancellor told: The UK’s leading employers’ organisation has warned Rishi Sunak that businesses running short of cash and resilience cannot afford to wait six weeks for the budget to secure more financial help from the government. Tony Danker, the director-general of the CBI, called on the chancellor to extend the furlough scheme, defer VAT payments and resist the temptation to raise business taxes as a way of plugging the UK’s record peacetime budget deficit. In its budget submission to the chancellor, the CBI called for an immediate £7.6bn injection from the Treasury as part of a £17.9bn package designed to see the economy through lockdown, stimulate investment over the coming year and prepare the UK for the challenges of the coming decade. “The budget comes at a crucial time for the UK. The government’s support from the very start of this crisis has protected many jobs and livelihoods, and progress on the vaccine rollout brings real cause for optimism,” Danker said. “But almost a year of disrupted demand and extensive restrictions to company operations is taking its toll. Staff morale has taken a hit. And business resilience has hit a sobering new low.” The CBI called for: A £6bn extension of the furlough scheme – which subsidises the wages of temporarily laid-off workers – beyond its planned end in April to the end of June and further targeted support to protect jobs subsequently; Lengthening repayment periods for existing VAT deferrals until June 2021 at the earliest and allow firms to defer VAT bills for the first quarter of 2021 for 12 months; An extension of the business rates holiday for at least another three months to those UK firms forced to close under current restrictions and expanding relief to their supply chains. Danker said firms tended to make plans at the start of the calendar year and were making key calls about jobs, premises and investment now. He said he thought Sunak would listen to the growing clamour from business. “If you want to have effective policy I don’t think you can wait until 3 March (budget day). Firms are not going to wait until 3 March before making decisions.”

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