Manchester night tsar Sacha Lord: Three things the Government should do to help hospitality with energy bills
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The hospitality sector is currently looking at the coming months with trepidation as the soaring cost of energy bills have left the likes of pubs, restaurants and breweries facing eye-watering bills for electricity and gas from October.
Mr Lord said he believed the industry was now in a more perilous position than during the Covid-19 pandemic when hospitality businesses had to close.
What are the three things Mr Lord wants the Government to do?
Mr Lord set out a three-point plan for what he says prime minister Liz Truss and her cabinet need to do during their first days in office for the hospitality industry.
He said: “Firstly, VAT needs to be cut immediately, down to 10%. We did see that being reported and hopefully something is coming there.
“Secondly, we need reductions in energy costs. The current quotes are unsustainable. Energy firms aren’t just quoting ridiculous figures, they are wanting deposits because hospitality is classed as high risk.
“Thirdly, there is a huge staff shortage in my industry. I don’t blame anyone who has left it in order to pay their rent and put food on the table, but we now need to get them back.
“People left the country to go home overseas and spend lockdown with their families, and now they can’t come back because the visa system has changed and you have to earn £26,000 as a minimum.
“I hope Liz Truss has been working in the background and has got measures to come to us with. If she doesn’t then on her watch she’s going to see the industry decimated.”
What does Mr Lord say about hospitality’s immediate future?
Mr Lord says the different treatment of the cost of living crisis and the novel coronavirus pandemic by politicians makes this a more risky period for hospitality than one in which businesses were forced to stop trading completely.
And he gave a bleak summary of what could happen if measures are not put in place, saying seven out of 10 businesses are under threat and the figure for Greater Manchester is broadly similar.
He said: “Without immediate intervention the job losses are going to be absolutely phenomenal. It’s absolutely devastating.
“Hospitality, going out to a theatre, bar or restaurant, is a luxury, and as people’s pockets become tighter and they are dealing with inflation they are going to be cutting back on luxuries. That is at a time when costs are surging.
“I’ve seen pubs saying they have been quoted figures which are completely untenable and will lead to people just handing the keys back.
“We are now in a worse situation than we were when we were shut during the pandemic. We had support then which was helpful and saved many jobs and businesses, but since the election for the new prime minister began communication has been completely locked down and there has been a wall around the government, which everything we are saying falling on deaf ears.
“I’ve had people phoning me up asking what they should do. I agree with Martin Lewis, who has said he has run out of tools. It’s now down to the Government. Will they or won’t they save these businesses?”
What has the Government said about the cost of living crisis?
In her inaugural speech after winning the Conservative leadership election on Monday (5 September), Ms Truss said she would work on the energy crisis.
Ms Truss said she would reduce people’s bills while also solving long-term issues with energy supply.
Her victory in the election was greeted with a chorus of calls for action from the hospitality sector, including from UK Hospitality, the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) and the Night Time Industries Association.
Energy caps for smaller businesses and a business rates holiday were among the moves to help the sector which were proposed.