Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West, put in to speak in the debate on support for the hospitality industry throughout the Covid-19 pandemic on 24 March. Even though Sir David was on the call list to speak, there was not enough time to reach him. Here is the speech that Sir David was going to give:
The hospitality industry has been especially hit hard by the pandemic as it has been forced to close, allowed to partially re-open before closing again. Economic output in the industry was down 92% in April 2020 compared to February 2020.
Southend, which is a wonderful seaside town and popular holiday destination, has plenty of restaurants, cafes, pubs and hotels that have suffered as a result of the restrictions. The Government needs to ensure that these businesses will continue to be properly supported financially throughout the summer when they usually thrive. One of the many reasons why Southend should become a city is because of its popularity during the warmer months with our lovely beaches, the longest pleasure pier in the world and the many live events and festivals. The hospitality industry has already missed the summer trade last year and it cannot afford to miss another one this year.
The tourism industry is heavily linked to the hospitality industry and both are struggling and need more financial assistance to recover lost income and to ensure they can remain open when the restrictions ease. The Gleneagles Guesthouse for example, and the many pubs and restaurants on the seafront in Southend, need a sector-specific support package.
I am sure my colleagues will have received similar emails from businesses about financial support queries; however, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has been particularly ineffective at distributing business grants. Businesses in my constituency have not been given funding from the Council when other businesses, who operate in the same way or are also not registered for business rates for example, in different local authorities have received funding. The discretionary aspect of these grants is unfair and as a result of the Council’s interpretation of the guidelines for support grants, many businesses in Southend have been left to fend for themselves. I have spoken to the leader of the Council on this issue and have been assured that those businesses who haven’t received financial support, and especially those who were excluded because they do not pay business rates, will receive help in the next round of payments. I do hope that the Council lives up to its responsibility and helps businesses who are struggling financially.
The Chancellor’s announcements in the Budget have been welcoming to many businesses I am sure. The extension of the furlough scheme, the VAT reduction and business rates relief have enabled many businesses to cope through recent times. We must however not forget about those that have been excluded and received no financial support. The Prime Minister’s roadmap back to normality has also given these businesses a much-needed timeframe to plan for their eventual re-opening. I do hope that the roadmap is followed and that the hospitality industry can indeed open its outdoor facilities next month and open its indoor facilities in May.