Industry welcomes UK government's £350bn business aid pledge

MIA wants more long-term support from the UK government, while BVEP expresses anger over the way the crisis has been handled.

The chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday set aside £350bn for businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic, unveiling a package of government-backed loans worth an initial £330 billion of guarantees, with a further £20bn available if needed. 

Sunak said the government will “do whatever it takes” to help businesses large and small pay their bills during the crisis and “make sure the effects do not become permanent.” 

The package includes:

  • Extending the business rates holiday to all businesses in the hospitality sector. Now every business in the hospitality sector will have a 12-month business rates holiday

  • Smaller businesses are eligible for a cash grant of up to £25,000

  • Cash grants of £10,000 for the UK’s 700,000 smallest companies

Those struggling financially due to coronavirus will be offered a three-month mortgage holiday, he added, with no details yet on what the policy will be for renters.

Yesterday the government faced heavy criticism from the hospitality sector after it advised the public not to have social gatherings for the foreseeable future, but didn’t ban them, meaning that businesses wouldn’t be able to claim on their insurance.

However, Sunak yesterday confirmed that firms would be able to claim on pandemic insurance policies.

Industry reacts

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association (MIA), said: “We are grateful that the chancellor has recognised and is finally listening to our industry’s challenges – in particular, in response to our request to provide short-term rate relief for all businesses, not just those with rateable values of less than £51,000. 

“It is good that he will also now be standing behind both small and large-sized organisations – which make up a large part of our industry.

“The people packages go some way to supporting the continuous employment of our valued teams.”

But she added: “The government’s support for businesses through the coming months are short-term measures, which are based on the provision of loans that will still need repaying. Instead, funds need to be readily accessible and realistic for the long-term.”

Simon Hughes, vice chair of the Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP) said : “This is testing our resilience to the absolute limit. Trying to get a fix on the economic impact that this is having – and consequently the levels of state aid that could be required – is really challenging too.

He continued: “In an already crowded autumn market, the option of postponing events and making up the current losses looks almost impossible. What we all need is more time to both see how the pandemic develops and how we as a nation cope with it. 

"The more clarity we get about plans being developed to manage the outbreak, the more controversy around the strategies being deployed grows. There is real and genuine anger over the way things have been handled to date, which is matched only by the immediate impact in terms of the loss of many jobs and livelihoods throughout the UK.”

Jason Megson, managing director VP at George P. Johnson (GPJ) Experience Marketing, added: "From a business point of view our industry - live brand experience - has been one of the first to feel a heavy impact.

"Commercially, our clients have their own challenges to overcome and need to minimise the effect on their businesses. We are here to help them do that - working in partnership with them to identify positive, progressive ways to continue to engage their audiences despite cancellations, postponements and travel bans."

He had a message of encouragement: "When we come out the other side of this pandemic an evolved live experience sector, with its power to truly connect people, will be hugely important, not just from a business point of view but for people themselves.”

The new government support package come after the chief scientific adviser said around 55,000 people in the UK now have COVID-19.


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