Robin Hutson, chairman and chief executive of Home Grown Hotels and Lime Wood Group has written to the prime minister saying the “toxic recipe” of furlough ceasing and hospitality businesses opening under social distancing rules would translate to “mass redundancies and the permanent loss of hundreds of thousands of rural jobs”. He said this would be “economically and socially devastating for rural Britain”.

Hutson pointed out that many rural hospitality businesses operate from small or repurposed buildings where social distancing is physically difficult to achieve. He added this would “push many rural businesses below their break-even point” and that a successful reopening during 2020 is looking “unlikely” for rural hospitality.

The letter has called for: • Backdated furlough to include all employees up until 19 March, not just those RTI registered. • Extended furlough and the introduction of a flexible, phased and part-time scheme until the end of Q1 2021. • Extending the business rates holiday until the end of Q2 2021. • Rent assistance, including a 12-month rent-free period to be added to end of leases, and for the government to set up a landlord fund. • The reduction of VAT for hospitality businesses during 2020/21. • More time for repayment of deferred VAT / PAYE, allowing for normal trading to fund these payments.

The letter has been supported by industry figures including Rick Stein and Jill Stein of the Seafood Restaurant; Alex, Charlie and Olga Polizzi; Andrew Stembridge, executive director of Iconic Luxury Hotels; Harry Murray, chairman of Lucknam Park in Colerne, Wiltshire; and Paul and Emma Ainsworth, owners of the Michelin-starred Paul Ainsworth at No 6 in Padstow, Cornwall.

Source: The Caterer by Katherine Price

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