Many hospitality and leisure businesses have had to cut back on operations and staff while they wait on funding that was promised to them before Christmas.
The chancellor said businesses in England would be paid £683m in grants to help them cope with Plan B measures that were introduced during what is normally the busiest time of year for them. This support was part of a £1bn package to deal with the fallout of the omicron variant. However, the grant (which is capped at £6,000) won’t do much to recover vital trade lost over Christmas.
Pubs and business groups say that few have seen any of this funding. Local councils, who are responsible for distributing the funds, said the detailed guidance for grants was only issued on December 30 and updated on January 12. Councils have received their allocations, but the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) say councils have to do checks before the money is divvied out.
BEIS said they delivered funds and guidance on January 7.
One local authority said that grants are expected to be paid out by March 31 and set a deadline of February 28 for decisions to be taken. One local authority said that they were awaiting further guidance from the government before they open applications.
UKHospitality estimates that one third of businesses have less than one month of cash reserves remaining.
Meanwhile, the Treasury has written off £4.3bn in payments lost to fraud – and only expects to recover £1 in every £4 taken by fraudsters. The figures were published on the HMRC website last week. Of the £81.2bn spent on the schemes, the Treasury believes £5.8bn was stolen by workers and businesses who were not entitled to the money.