‘It would pay for one worker’: tier 2 businesses on latest Covid funding

Businesses in areas of England subject to tier 2 restrictions have welcomed extra support measures announced by the government but say the future still looks bleak if Covid-19 restrictions persist.

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said on Thursday that firms in tier 2 areas would be eligible for monthly grants of up to £2,100 and an increased government contribution to workers’ wages under the job support scheme.

The support is primarily aimed at the hard-hit hospitality, accommodation and leisure sectors, but firms said crippling rents, reduced trade and the fact that some sectors weren’t eligible for business rates relief meant they would still struggle.

Pub landlord: ‘Nowhere near what we need to break even’

Paul Garner, the landlord of the Yorkshire Grey pub in the Holborn area of central London, said he was happy to receive any funding at all but that it was “a little bit too late”.

“We’ve already had to make huge redundancies due to the lack of trade. They’ve had their P45s issued. If we’d had it before, we would have been able to keep people in work.”

The grant money comes as a welcome boost but may not go very far, according to Garner.

“We’ve lost a massive amount of our revenue stream, down to about 30% of where we were beforehand. When you compare that to what’s been offered, it’s nowhere near what we’d need to make sure we’re breaking even.

“Our rent is close to £1,800 per week and we’ve not heard anything from the landlord about whether there will be a reduction.

“It feels like money is being passed out left, right and centre without thinking about how it will be used in the business. There should have been some form of regulation to ensure a landlord can only charge a certain amount, maybe linked to turnover.

“Our operating costs are so high, particularly because of where we are, that it will have minimal effect on the business. We’re counting every penny when we should be looking after guests.”

Venue manager: ‘No regulation is on our side’

Drew Burke runs the Hangar venue in Birmingham, where very little money is coming in because shows aren’t taking place.

“We’re an independent business and it’s our life’s work,” he said.

“We were at our pinnacle and everything was getting going, the shows were selling out as quick as we could put them on. Now we’re in a state where all that hard work has been taken away.”

The restrictions preclude the type of heavily attended events the Hangar usually puts on, meaning extra support does not help much.

“We were doing craft sales, professional wrestling and boxing, showing football on live screen … it’s all gone. There’s nothing that we could do that would put us in profit. No regulation is on our side.”

The venue employs only a handful of people when no events are on, meaning the job support scheme does not help much. Grants, while welcome, cannot make up for lost ticket revenue.

“It’s a contribution and I’m not being in any way ungrateful,” said Burke. “In some venues it would help massively but for us, with what we do and how we’re set up, it would probably pay for one member of staff.”

Food wholesaler: ‘We’ll get through by making sacrifices’

Food wholesalers that supply the hospitality industry have been hard hit by reduced demand from the struggling sector.

Woods Foodservice supplies central London restaurants from its base at a depot in Uxbridge, in the prime minister’s constituency. Its managing director, Darren Labbett, said: “We needed some sort of assistance to get through it, so it’s very welcome but we don’t feel it’s enough.

“We’d have liked to have seen business rates relief. All of our customers get it and all of retail gets it, including supermarkets that have done nothing but benefit from this situation.

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“I think we’ll get through this by making sacrifices and because we were in a good position going into this but a lot of wholesalers won’t survive despite these measures and that’s a fact.

He said the enhanced job support scheme would “save some jobs” but that he would still have to make redundancies if restrictions were not eased.

“And what’s happening to us will be happening to others.”

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