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Sadiq Khan: Government bailout for venues is “a drop in the ocean”

“The devastating truth is that a £6,000 grant to compensate for losses made in the golden quarter is a drop in the ocean

By Nick Reilly

Sadiq Khan
Sadiq Khan (Picture: Alamy)

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has criticised the latest government bailout package for venues affected by the pandemic.

It comes after Chancellor Rishi Sunak introduced a fresh £1billion support package for businesses that have suffered the impact of COVID-19.

As part of Sunak’s new package, restaurants, bars, cinemas and theatres can apply for a maximum grant of £6,000 to help them cover costs, while an extra £30million has been pledged to help theatres and museums survive.

Responding to the package, Khan said “while any support is welcome, the package of support announce today by the Chancellor will barely touch the sides.”

He continued: “It does not go nearly far enough towards providing the level of support our world-renowned retail, hospitality, nightlife and cultural sectors need at what should be their busiest time of the year. 

“To put this in context, closing a West End show for a week can cost over £250,000 while a Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) members survey has indicated an average loss in takings of £46,000 per venue in the run-up to Christmas.

“The devastating truth is that a £6,000 grant to compensate for losses made in the golden quarter is a drop in the ocean and grants alone will not be enough to keep businesses afloat, especially if – as many expect – further restrictive measures are forthcoming. These businesses have a genuine fear for their futures and it is essential for both business continuity and consumer confidence that Ministers provide clarity about whether restrictions will persist or are likely to be tightened further.

“At a critical time for retail, hospitality and leisure, we need a comprehensive package of measures which provide full business rates relief, extension of the VAT relief scheme, and a substantial increase in direct grant funding to support hospitality, night time and cultural venues who were counting on a rise in income over the Christmas period to help see them through the lean winter months.

“The Chancellor has said nothing on support for freelancers and gig economy workers, or of the targeted reintroduction of the furlough scheme to protect those workers who will see their incomes plummet. Ministers must act now to ensure that more jobs are not permanently lost.”

The package has also been criticised by the Night Times Industries Association (NTIA), whose CEO Michael Kill said: “Businesses are failing, people are losing their livelihoods and the industry is crippled.  Mixed messaging, coupled with additional restrictions, has had a catastrophic impact on our sector over the last two weeks. 

“At this critical point, we need strong leadership and a clear pathway from Government with a long-term strategy for new Covid variants. The open/close strategy is crucifying businesses. Every pound of help is much needed. But this package is far too little and borders on the insulting.”

Elsewhere, people in England must now present a COVID pass to enter nightclubs and certain venues.

The new measures are effective from last week (December 15) after MPs voted them through the House Of Commons the day before.

Under the rules, over-18s are required to show proof of their COVID status in order to gain entry to nightclubs, indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, and any venue with more than 10,000 people (via the BBC).

London’s New Year’s Eve party in Trafalgar Square has also been cancelled, amid rising COVID cases in the capital.