Hospitality jobs under threat as end of furlough scheme approaches, Labour says

19 February 2021, 23:02

A couple walking past a closed pub in Camden
A couple walking past a closed pub in Camden. Picture: PA

By Megan White

More than a million hospitality jobs could be lost if the Government's furlough scheme is not extended, Labour is warning.

The party said more than a million workers in the industry are still furloughed, and there are fears many hospitality businesses are planning to make staff redundant in the next three months.

Labour said the furlough scheme is approaching a "cliff edge" in April and should be extended, as well as reformed to include new training incentives to help workers improve their skills.

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The party also called for the reduced rate of VAT for the hospitality, leisure and cultural sectors to continue for another six months, or until three months after the lifting of health restrictions - whichever is later.

Lucy Powell, shadow minister for business and consumers, said: "Business owners want to protect their livelihoods and those of their employees, but they can't plan in the dark and they're crying out for certainty from the Government on business rates, VAT and the furlough scheme.

"Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have presided over the worst economic crisis of any major economy.

"They need to back our businesses and support jobs as the vaccine is rolled out, to secure our economy and get Britain back on the road to recovery."

The boss of Young's said on Friday that pubs must have the same restrictions as July when they reopen following the latest lockdown in order to avoid thousands more job losses.

Patrick Dardis, chief executive officer, said anything less would be "unviable" if pub doors are kept shut until May.

It comes ahead of the Prime Minister's announcement of the "road map" out of lockdown on Monday, with reports this week suggesting pubs could have to wait until the start of May to reopen.

Mr Dardis, who leads the 190-year-old pub owner and brewer, said that he was desperate for clarity after the sector was placed in a "standstill" after Christmas.

"My greatest fear is that we are not given clear reopening plans on Monday," he said.

"Opening in May is not ideal, we would massively prefer April, but at least if that is announced we have clarity we can work with.

"If it is May, we need to be able to reopen with at least the same rules in place as July 4, so we have two households inside and rule of six outside."

He said these restrictions would also need to come alongside an extension to the current business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure, and an extension to current VAT cuts.

Mr Dardis warned that "thousands of jobs are on the line" if the reopening of pubs takes place later in the year.

All of the company's 276 UK pubs are currently shut following the third national coronavirus lockdown.

Last week, Mr Dardis was among a number of pub chiefs to write to the Prime Minister after resigning from a weekly forum with business minister Paul Scully over frustrations regarding the sector's dialogue with Government.

"Mr Scully was listening to us and constructive but it feels obvious to us that there were others in Government who didn't share his position," he said.

"I think, with suggestions around outdoor opening and no alcohol, there are people who must think 'pubs are evil' and still have this Victorian view of pubs as smoke-filled, dingy places.

"I'd love to take all of the cabinet to one of our pubs for a Sunday lunch so they can really see what it's like, that it is a key cog in the community."