Government grants are a half-hearted panacea that don't address the real problem: failing small business, says David Moore
wrote previously that I wake each morning to the ping of breaking news from Hospitality Union. Now I wake to the sound of ringing in my ears, having developed stress-related tinnitus since lockdown. I also have recurring dreams about losing my teeth, falling, and working at Le Manoir (where I spent six years before opening Pied à Terre). If you know anything about dreams you will understand what I'm saying about how stressful life is. The mental health toll of this situation will be a long time unfolding.
Currently life seems to be like my local Co-op: it doesn't have the things I really want, but it does have plenty of stuff I'll happily accept. For example, business rates holiday – yeah, no (why do people say that?) – sure, I'll take that, but I'd much prefer that they tackled the system, one that is universally regarded as flawed.
Another is the VAT reduction – yeah, no, sure, give it to me. It's a nice to have, but in my view it was meant as a cushion for smaller operators. The big boys are making PR opportunities out of it by handing it directly to the customer. Rishi, why didn't you provide a better steer on this? The smaller operator looks mean for not handing it all over on menu price.
Rishi, why didn't you provide a better steer on this? The smaller operator looks mean for not handing it all over on menu price
The £1,000 Job Retention Bonus – yeah, no, sure, I'll take it; but if I can run down an employee's notice period with 80% of salary contributed on furlough, I'd be stupid not to. Will the bonus save a single job? No! It seems as if they want to find ways to give big business big money, but not help those who need it most: small independent businesses that are at the coalface, with loans secured against family homes.
Yeah, no, get this, Camden had funds from central government for discretionary grants for those suffering hardship with a rateable value over £51,000 – a mere £3.4m across the whole borough; which amounts to less than 1% of the financial benefit to the likes of Tesco of the business rates holiday. There were thousands of applications and ours failed, even though we have had no income since 20 March. Total madness.
Where is the help when you really need it? The receptionist, the waiter sent home to self-isolate for 14 days because someone at track and trace says they came into contact with a Covid-19 customer. Will they be on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)? Do you even know how much SSP is? £95.85 a week, that's your lot!
No money for the small guys, but let's throw hundreds of millions at those with the loudest voices. Here's an idea, don't put the 15% back on VAT, but introduce a universal ‘sales tax' that replaces business rates. This is the time to make bold changes and actually give small businesses something they really need.
Here's another, a final one, one that I really, really want. Let's try and save our industry. Let's get a nationwide deal done on hospitality rents, get behind #nationaltimeout. There is no ‘yeah no' here; it is time to get this sorted, or tens of thousands of operators are going to close and hundreds of thousands will be unemployed.
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