Hospitality leaders have welcomed critical business support provided in Wednesday’s budget, however environmental campaigners and MPs said the package of measures did not meet the scale of the climate and nature crises.
The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced an extension of the furlough scheme until September as part of a raft of measures to help safeguard the future of businesses.
Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses will pay no business rates for a further three months until June after which rates will be discounted for the remaining nine months of the year to a third of the normal charge.
The 5% reduced rate of VAT will be extended until the end of September and will then be gradually increased, at 12.5% for six months, before returning to the standard rate from April 2022.
“The Chancellor has listened to the concerns of the hospitality sector. Details are yet to be pored over but it looks like crucial support will help businesses at a critical time,” said UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls.
Sunak also confirmed the recently announced £5bn restart grant for businesses and a new loan scheme to replace bounce back and coronavirus business interruption loan schemes.
Alcohol duty will be frozen for a second consecutive year. British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said that overall it was a good budget for pubs in the short-term but warned that pubs and breweries would need continued government support in the long term.
The reaction from environmental groups was more lukewarm. Although the chancellor announced the establishment of a new national infrastructure bank in Leeds with a remit to invest predominantly in green projects and the expansion of the remit of the Bank of England to include environmental sustainability, the package did not amount to the compelling plan for a green recovery campaigners were hoping for.
“There are measures in this budget that are potentially game changing – such as expanding the remit of the Bank of England to include environmental sustainability, which is a significant step towards aligning our financial system with climate and nature goals,” said Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF. “But if we are serious about building our resilience against future crises, we must make sure that government investment isn’t contributing to them – which is why we need a net zero test for overall government spending, and to ensure that all new policies, such as freeports or business tax deductions, are in line with our climate goals, not undermining them.”
Environmental audit committee chairman, Philip Dunne MP, said the chancellor had missed an opportunity to go further in reducing VAT for green sectors including energy efficiency upgrades, and investing more significantly in renewable and low-carbon energy.