I know how vital the hospitality sector is to our local economy and how difficult this past year has been for business owners in hospitality and those who work in pubs, cafés, restaurants and bars.
Ahead of the budget I wrote to the Chancellor raising the challenge still faced by the hospitality sector. I asked the Chancellor to consider a lower rate of duty on draught beer to boost revenue for the sector when it is allowed to reopen, an extension to the VAT cut and the continuation of business rates relief. I also asked if the Chancellor would consider extending the furlough scheme until venues were able to safely reopen.
I am very pleased that the Chancellor announced in the budget that all alcohol and sugary drink duties will be frozen in 2021. The Chancellor also announced that the hospitality and tourism sectors, which he acknowledged have been hardest hit this year, will continue to pay lower VAT rates. The 5 percent reduced rate will apply until 30th September, and from 1st October will remain at an interim rate of 12.5 percent for another six months. The Chancellor has also announced that hospitality businesses will now be exempt from paying business rates until the end of June and afterwards will continue to enjoy a discount of one third of the normal charge for the rest of the financial year, up to a maximum of £2 million. Finally, the Chancellor has confirmed the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) until September 2021.
I also raised with the Prime Minister whether, if rates of infection continue to fall, he would consider opening the hospitality industry earlier than the current roadmap allows, in order to save thousands of jobs. I know how many livelihoods and especially workers on low incomes depend on the hospitality sector. Allowing establishments that are Covid secure to re-open earlier will save hundreds of pubs and restaurants.