I am acutely aware that pubs have faced considerable challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, and I am therefore encouraged that they have been provided with significant financial support and relief.
To help businesses reopen safely, one-off Restart Grants were made available worth up to £18,000 for hospitality, leisure, accommodation, personal care and gym businesses. Building on this, 66 percent business rates relief and a reduced 12.5 per cent VAT rate are in place until the end of March 2022, with alcohol duty also frozen for 2021-22.
These measures come on top of the previous grants, reliefs and loans made available since the start of the pandemic. For example, as we entered a national lockdown in January, the Chancellor unveiled further economic support for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, including pubs, in light of the restrictions. New one-off top-up grants were announced, worth up to £9,000 per property, to help businesses through to the spring.
I am pleased that the Government has announced that pavement licences will be extended, making it easier and cheaper for pubs, restaurants and cafes to continue to make outdoor dining a reality with seating, tables and street stalls to serve food and drinks. There is also an intention to make them permanent. On top of this, pubs will be given more flexibility through a 12-month extension of temporary permissions for the off-sale of alcohol.
I understand that pubs were subject to debilitating restrictions for a long time, and I hear requests for a longer-term sector-specific package of support. That is why I am assured that the Government has provided unprecedented levels of support throughout the pandemic and published long-term strategies to help the hospitality sector and our high streets to recover with more resilience.
Evidence continues to be collected on the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality sector and I am glad that the Government’s support is helping pubs, which are the lifeblood of our communities, to recover and build back better.