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Shropshire business leaders welcome plans to kickstart post-lockdown economy

By James Pugh | Business | Published:

Support measures aimed at boosting trade in businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic have been welcomed by bosses in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Attractions like Severn Valley Railway will be keen for a boost in tourism post-lockdown

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a major new package of support for the struggling hospitality and tourism sectors in his mini-Budget, including cutting VAT on food, accommodation and attractions from 20 per cent to five per cent.

Today's announcement: Key Points

  • Plan confirmed to abolish stamp duty on properties up to £500,000 in England and Northern Ireland under a temporary measure lasting until March 31 2021.
  • An “eat out to help out” plan for dining out in August to boost the hospitality sector, with a 50% discount per head from Monday to Wednesday up to a maximum discount of £10 per diner.
  • VAT slashed on food, accommodation and attractions from 20% to 5% from July 15 until January 12, a tax cut worth up to £4 billion.
  • Scheme for firms to be given £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25 and a new bonus of £1,500 for apprentices over that age.

Speaking after today's announcement Mark Bebb, managing director of Shrewsbury-based caravan and motorhome dealership Salop Leisure, said: “We particularly welcome the VAT cut, as it will really help the hospitality and domestic tourism sector.

"Hopefully, it will stimulate demand for our industry and ultimately help to protect jobs."

VAT standard rate
(PA Graphics)

Edward Goddard, managing director of Shrewsbury-based Morris Leisure and chairman of Shrewsbury Tourism Association, said: “The Chancellor’s announcement is a very welcome boost for the tourism and hospitality sector which has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

“The 15 per cent reduction in VAT, the launch of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and the £1,000 per employee to keep furloughed workers in their roles will go some way to helping the sector get back on its feet.”

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Val Hawkins, chief executive of MWT Cymru which represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and the Meirionnydd, said: “Hopefully, the measures announced by the Chancellor will encourage more people to visit attractions, hotels, bed and breakfast accommodation, restaurants and cafes, which will be a welcome boost at this very challenging time.

“Any support for tourism and hospitality businesses has got to be welcomed due to the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on this sector.”

Businesses in the region have also welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement of extra support to protect jobs, including a scheme to encourage employers to bring back the workers they furloughed.

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Anton Gunter, managing director at Global Freight Services in Telford, said: “The announcement of the new Job Retention Bonus is good news for all those companies who have had to place staff on furlough over recent months.

“This measure alone will go a long way to protecting our local economy and help businesses to hold onto their staff when the current furlough scheme ends in October.

“It’s also great to see a package of measures being introduced to help businesses support younger people. There will be so many who have just left school or finished university who will be struggling to find employment so hopefully this will provide opportunities for them.”

Anton Gunter, managing director of Telford-based Global Freight Services

Shaun Carvill, managing director of Bridgnorth-based web design company Clickingmad, said: “It is absolutely vital that all our businesses here in Shropshire have the best possible chance of survival and the measures announced will go a long way to protecting our local economy from job losses."

The Chancellor also announced a new bonus for employers to hire apprentices over the next six months.

James Worthington, managing director of workwear specialist MyWorkwear, said: “As a passionate advocate for the future of UK manufacturing and long time supporter of STEM initiatives, we welcome the announcement on trainee incentives. This age group is facing a tough employment market for many years to come and therefore it’s essential to offer as much support as possible to our workforce of the future.

"We are also pleased to see the announcement of the Job Retention Bonus, but fear it will not be enough for struggling companies who face the difficult decision of having to make cuts just to keep the lights on. On a more positive note, with so many clients in the hospitality business, we’re pleased to see the VAT announcement, which will hopefully help this hard hit industry to recover more quickly."

Steven Owen, managing director of building contractor Pave Aways, said the industry needed all the help it could get to encourage more young people to the sector.

“We already do a lot to entice young people into construction including apprenticeships, work placement, hosting careers events and working with schools and colleges to promote the benefits of building as a career. But if we are to ‘build, build, build’ as the Government wants us to to get the country back on its feet additional help such as bonus payments with allow us to invest more time in recruiting and encouraging young people into construction.

“There is already a skills gap in the trades we use so that needs to be tackled at a national level but we also need young people to realise there are so many more roles that support a business like ours that we need to fill from accountants to health and safety and personnel.”

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Bekki Phillips, managing director of In-Comm Training, said: “Any funding that goes directly to companies to encourage them to take on apprenticeships is welcome, but we need to see the full details to see what a difference this will make to businesses and their recruitment intentions.

“Firms are already receiving a £1,000 grant to take on 16-18 year-old apprentices so we’re presuming the £2000 announced is on top of that or does it replace it? Likewise, can this be used in tandem with the Kickstart Scheme, designed to get more young people back into work? If it can be, then this really is a gamechanger.

“With over 700 apprentices currently being trained at our three academies, we wanted to see specific support about protecting those currently studying so their jobs are safeguarded.

“The bonus for bringing a furloughed worker back could help in a small way, but I think we needed a bit more. We also wanted to see the Government look at funding a programme-led approach to apprenticeships, where we could train young people up to Level 2 and then find them an employer at the end – hopefully when the economy has picked back up again.”

Meanwhile, the temporary cut on stamp duty – the tax on buying land or properties – has also been welcomed.

Tim Treherne, of Lanyon Bowdler's residential property department, said: "In Shropshire, the initial effect of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions was simply to pause transactions. We had very few sales or purchases fail at that stage.

"With the easing of restrictions in early June, the market took off again and all the paused transactions rapidly reactivated. Our more rural counties will undoubtedly benefit from any increase in transactions in the south east and elsewhere, as the number of people seeking to relocate to what they view as areas which have largely passed unscathed during the pandemic has been evident in the enquiries made to our local estate agents for viewing.

Stamp duty threshold.
(PA Graphics)

"Additionally, there will undoubtedly be people in our localities who will now consider moving if they no longer have to pay stamp duty, and that will add further impetus to the local market.

"However, if there is to be a temporary change in the tax, it must come into effect immediately, otherwise it risks pausing the market again as buyers wait for any future stamp duty exemption to come into effect."

Jarna Rahman, head of conveyancing at law firm FBC Manby Bowdler, said: “The Chancellor is correct – people do need to have confidence to buy, sell, move and improve. The announcement means that nearly nine out of 10 people will pay no stamp duty at all between now and March 31 2021. It is a welcome move by the Government and will help the wider economic recovery."

Elsewhere, the managing director of a renewable energy company has welcomed the Chancellor’s £3 billion ‘green investment’ funding programme to help the economy recover from the impact of lockdown.

Richard Partington, managing director of Telford-based AceOn Energy, said efforts to drive job creation in the green economy and improve energy efficiency across the country would play an important part in the recovery from Covid-19.

But he added that it was vital the measures formed part of a longer-term strategic plan to tackle climate change and energy use.

Richard Partington, managing director of Telford-based AceOn Energy

AceOn – based on Stafford Park in Telford – is pioneering an innovative Virtual Power Plant which can be installed in individual homes and uses state-of-the-art battery technology to store renewable energy from solar panels for use when needed.

Mr Partington said: “There is much in what the Chancellor has said that will be good for homeowners and the economy – such as the news about home insulation and double glazing.

“We will want to study the detail of the announcement but would hope that there is a strategic plan behind it to tackle climate change and help the country reach its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“To do that it is fundamental that the Government invests in new forms of energy storage, renewable technologies and infrastructure and planning changes to accommodate it.

“Technologies such as the Virtual Power Plant we have developed will play a major part in helping the country capture, store and efficiently use renewable energy for years to come, reducing capacity on the National Grid and helping drive down emissions.

“By working with local authorities, housing associations, private developers and others we can make a truly significant contribution to ensuring we meet our responsibilities to the environment and the generations to come.”

James Pugh

By James Pugh

Shropshire Star Business and Farming Editor.

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