Cumbria Tourism is welcoming the new package of financial measures announced by the Chancellor today to help protect jobs and improve cashflow for businesses, as the tourism and hospitality sector heads into the challenging winter period.
With four months of business already lost, significantly reduced capacity and spending down, the county’s official Destination Management Organisation (DMO) is pleased the Government has responded to both Cumbria Tourism and the wider industry’s pleas for continued intervention to help businesses through the continuing uncertainty and ever-evolving restrictions they are now facing.
Cumbria Tourism’s latest research, revealed last week, shows that business confidence levels have been plummeting and it has been urgently calling for this type of winter support package at the highest levels of government.
Gill Haigh, Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, says, “The devil is in the detail, but we are pleased that today’s statement acknowledges the very specific challenges for the tourism sector, given that businesses were unable to open for almost four months in the usually buoyant summer season and are now facing the longer-term impact of a £1.5billion loss to Cumbria’s tourism industry amid continuing restrictions and uncertainty.
“Initial responses from our member businesses suggest the new measures should have a positive effect on cashflow for many tourism operators. The continued reduction in VAT will be particularly welcomed, there is good news for those who have taken out Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans and it’s great to see employers being actively supported to bring people back to work. We are certainly looking forward to hearing more detail about today’s announcement, particularly around the new successor loan scheme planned for January.
“At the same time, we need to recognise that there are concerns it may be too late for some businesses, and some will continue to find it difficult to access the new measures. There is also a question mark over what happens if there is another national lockdown and this is something we will be monitoring closely.
“Cumbria Tourism’s research team will be continuing its in-depth business tracker research over the coming months to ensure we have strong, up-to-date information about the impact of the new measures. We can then use this evidence to directly inform national decision-makers and make the strongest possible case for Cumbria if additional targeted support is needed further down the line.”
Cumbria Chamber of Commerce says that the Chancellor’s new support package for businesses will reduce the number of job losses in the county this autumn.
Chamber Chief Executive Rob Johnston said: “We were very worried about the end of the furlough scheme. South Lakeland and Eden had the highest proportion of furloughed workers in the country so Cumbria is really exposed.
“A British Chambers’ survey revealed that a third of businesses were planning to shed workers when the scheme ends. Cumbria’s already seen unemployment double since lockdown and it would certainly have gone a lot higher.”
Under the Job Support Scheme, the Government will top-up pay as long as employees work at least a third of their usual hours. The Government and the employer will each pay one third of their salary for the hours not worked.
Rob said: “The new scheme isn’t as generous but it’s a lot better than doing nothing and it will reduce job losses. It won’t save businesses beyond the point of no return but it will help those that have a future to make a go of it.
“There are a lot of self-employed businesspeople in Cumbria so we’re pleased that he’s extended the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
“The tweaks to the loan schemes and the extra time to repay deferred tax will help with cashflow, which is probably the number one issue for businesses.
“And extending the five per cent VAT rate for hospitality until March 31 – it was due to end in January – will help the sector get through what’s going to be a tough winter.
“Overall, we’re relieved that he’s acted and welcome what he’s done. It works particularly well for Cumbria. However, he will need to do more if the Government tightens lockdown restrictions further.”
Commenting on the Chancellor’s Winter Economic Plan which was announced this afternoon, local MP Tim Farron said: “I welcome the fact that the Chancellor has announced a winter package of support with bespoke measures for the hospitality and tourism sector – something which myself and Cumbria Tourism have been campaigning for since the end of April.
“For many local businesses who are just getting back on their feet, the measures announced today, especially the cut in VAT, will provide a much-needed boost to help them navigate through the coming tough winter months.
“However, while this is a step in the right direction, the increase in local lockdowns and the fact that some businesses may struggle to access these proposals means that more support is definitely still needed.
“I look forward to the Prime Minister honouring the commitment he made in Parliament this week that he would arrange for a minister to meet with me and local hospitality leaders to discuss what more can be done so that no one gets left behind.
“Disappointingly, however the measures are a colossal kick in the teeth for the three million workers, many who are self-employed or run local small businesses, who had fallen through the cracks of the Government’s previous support schemes and who have missed out yet again.
“The Chancellor has had six months to come up with a solution to help these people through desperate times, and he has simply chosen to turn his back on each and every one of them.
“I will continue to work with colleagues from right across the House in our all-party group to fight for the support and the justice that these people rightly deserve.”