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English UK: Chancellor urged to speed up and extend Covid grants promised a year ago

Published Lynne on Wednesday, March 23, 2022 12:00 AM

English UK: Chancellor urged to speed up and extend Covid grants promised a year ago

Organisations representing thousands of businesses fear their recovery will be damaged if promised relief payments are delayed further into the next tax year.  

Small breweries, tourism, events and conference organisations and English language schools are among the affected businesses waiting for Covid Additional Relief Fund grants which were first promised a year ago.  

Eight sector organisations representing thousands of businesses have now written to Rishi Sunak urging him to ensure the payments are made without further delay, and asking for the scheme to be extended for a further year to support business recovery.  

“Even though the legislation was passed and the guidance published in December last year, we understand that local authorities still are unable to identify and distribute the grants to eligible businesses. We now face the likely situation that this will not be paid this financial year, adding further pressure to businesses trying to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Please provide as quickly as possible the resources that local authorities need to pay this to eligible businesses as soon as possible.  

“The £1.5 billion provided under CARF has been allocated to councils for relief in the 2021/22 final year. Given that relief offered under the Expanded Retail Discount has been extended to 2022/23 for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses in your Autumn Statement, it would be logical to make additional relief funding available under CARF.  

“The decline in revenue over the past two years has particularly impacted the businesses that we represent. These businesses have received little in support grants during the pandemic as these businesses were never required to close…  this has left businesses at the hands of a postcode lottery of support with many slipping through the net of support. Furthermore, business rates can represent up to 70% of a business’s non-controllable costs.”  

The businesses affected vary from small brewers to coaches, tourism organisations and English language centres. To take the example of the tourism sector, it has suffered a decline in revenue of over 70%  

over the last two years and modelling undertaken by DCMS indicates that tourism revenue will take at least until the end of 2023 to recover.  

Small brewers lost 80% of their sales with the closure of pubs and they lost ten years of growth in 2020.  

Joss Croft, CEO of UKinbound, said: “The pandemic decimated the UK’s inbound tourism industry, which lost over £45 billion over the last two years, but today one of the key issues for inbound tour operator businesses is working capital. Reserves have been depleted due to the pandemic and although bookings are coming in, the full monies for them won’t materialise until the visitors arrive, whilst these businesses still need to pay their hotel and attraction deposits for these bookings now. More cash in the bank would aid cash flow and therefore bolster recovery.” 

James Calder, Chief Executive of SIBA said: “Small independent brewers lost 10 years of growth with the Covid pandemic and are yet to recover. They are facing rising costs and have been left with around £30,000 of Covid debt each, many others still having to repay beer duty to the Government. The additional relief fund is one of the only grants many small brewers may be able to access, yet they have had to wait for nearly a year without a penny being paid. It is vital that local authorities prioritise these payments as soon as possible and that the Chancellor expands the scheme to help the sector begin on the long road to recovery.” 

Jodie Gray of English UK, the trade association for English language schools, said: “Many of our member centres have now had two years without significant income as students have been unable to travel here, and we do not anticipate confidence returning overnight, particularly among the families of younger students. It is a testament to the resilience of language centres that just 15% have closed permanently to date, but business rates are a huge expense as schools need large buildings which are often in town centres to meet student demand. We are really worried that further delays in the distribution of this fund will lead to the closure of viable businesses which would have otherwise continued to play their part in the UK’s economy and export drive.” 

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