Rishi Sunak has come under fire from the hospitality industry for underestimating the rent costs faced by businesses.
During an appearance on BBC's The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, the chancellor said a "typical" restaurant or pub would pay an average annual rent of between £14,000 and £20,000. UKHospitality data shows the average rent is £35,000 with one in five businesses paying over £50,000.
This has prompted concerns Sunak has failed to understand the scale of the crisis facing the industry ahead of the Budget tomorrow (3 March).
Speaking on Sunday, he said: "If you think about a typical restaurant or pub they would have rent on an average year of somewhere between £14,000 and £20,000, it will vary substantially."
The chancellor is due to announce grants of up to £18,000 for hospitality businesses in England on Wednesday, based on rateable value.
But his comments have prompted an outpouring of disbelief on social media, with pubs sharing the reality of their rents and calling on Sunak to "do more research" under the #NoPubNoRent and #saveourpubs hashtags.
The Campaign for Pubs has written to the chancellor questioning the ‘wildly inaccurate' estimate and urging him not to base his support on a 'huge under-assessment' of rent.
London night czar Amy Lamé tweeted: "Yes, and a pint of milk is 6p, a packet of crisps 3p and a brand new Ford Cortina £1,075. We are not living in 1973. @RishiSunak, hospitality businesses in #London pay £14-20k rent per MONTH not year."
Loungers chairman and co-founder Alex Reilly tweeted: "Did @RishiSunak just say the annual rent for a typical restaurant or pub is 'Somewhere between £14k - £20k'?!?! Are the government really that out of touch? I doubt he got that information from his good mate @GordonRamsay."
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: "The chancellor appears to be using the median figure for rents, which effectively bypasses large variations and ignores higher rents at the top of the scale.
"We hope the chancellor understands that there are businesses incurring serious costs all the while they are forcibly closed and will still be incurring them while they are operating under severe restrictions.
"We're approaching the reopening dates, but pubs still need support to see them through these weeks and months ahead. The grants announced this weekend are a fantastic first start for many businesses, but the chancellor must go further on Wednesday. The VAT cut and business rates holiday must be extended and we need action to tackle to the problem of rent debt."