A bailout package worth about £1bn for UK businesses has been announced by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak in response to the Omicron Covid-19 outbreak.
The funding will primarily help firms in the leisure and hospitality sector, and follows concerns that they have faced cancelled bookings and plummeting custom since the Government implemented its Covid “plan B”.
The bailout package consists of four elements:
- Grants for hospitality and leisure businesses in England, worth up to £6,000 per premises. The Treasury has set aside £683m for these payments, administered through local authorities and available in the coming weeks.
- Further grants for businesses in England, worth £102m, intended to help businesses most in need, and again administered through local authorities.
- The resumption of the statutory sick pay rebate scheme, which will reimburse employers in the UK with fewer than 250 workers for the cost of paying statutory sick pay for Covid-related absences for up to two weeks.
- An extra £30m for arts organisations , paid through the culture recovery fund.
- In addition, the Scottish government will receive £150m, the Welsh government £50m and the Northern Ireland executive £25m under the Barnett formula to offset the England-only spending.
Responding to the announcement Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “These positive measures will help alleviate the intense pressures that small firms are currently under, and hopefully arrest a significant decline in confidence over this year.
“With the prospect of one million people sick or self-isolating by January, we encouraged the Chancellor to bring back the COVID statutory sick pay rebate – we’re pleased to see our recommendation taken forward today.
“This move will reduce stress for small employers up and down the country, helping those who are struggling most with depleted cashflow. It’s vital that small firms – once again up against a massively disrupted festive season – can reclaim the costs of supporting staff.
“The Government has also rightly taken forward other aspects of our ten-point plan, with £1bn worth of grant support for the hardest-hit sectors, alongside accelerated delivery of the business rates relief fund for supply chains launched months ago.
“The encouragement of HMRC to give as much breathing space as possible to small firms as we head towards tax return season will also come as a relief to many.
“We’ve always said that support needs to move in lockstep with restrictions, and this intervention will help give small businesses confidence that this is the approach Government will be taking.
“Of our 10-point plan, four actions have now been promised. It’s important that other cross-economy measures follow, especially as further public health restrictions to business are likely to be considered - as already seen in Scotland and Wales.”