Business News

BUDGET: Grants for Andover businesses, but we’ll all pay in the end

Chancellor: RISHI SUNAK

Business owners in Andover may be grateful for ‘some’ of this week’s budget.

It is understood that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce a scheme which means local businesses could claim grants of up to £18,000.

The grant scheme which totals £5bn is aimed at supporting High Street shops and hospitality firms like pubs and restaurants.

This most anticipated Budget for many decades is this Wednesday lunchtime. It comes as it is anticipated that non-essential businesses could re-open on April 12th, although this date may be delayed.

Mr Sunak told the BBC today that the new grant scheme would help people “reopen their businesses” and is “the right thing to do now”.

Local businesses that do not fall into the retail or hospitality sectors and fall ‘between the cracks’ of government initiatives have always been ‘at the discretion’ of Test Valley Borough Council.

Retail and hospitality businesses may have something to look forward to, but for many service sector industries – and for people who work in the Test Valley – this may be a difficult budget to accept.

Re-paying £271bn of government borrowing will have to be paid back, somehow.

How will the budget help individuals who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic? This is yet to be seen. Taxes like VAT and income tax may rise.

On today’s TV programme when asked whether he had ‘privately’ told Conservative MPs that he wanted to raise taxes now so he could cut them ahead of the next general election Mr Sunak replied, “I don’t recognise that.”

Andover’s pubs, many of whom will have been either mostly or entirely closed for over a year when they are able to re-open on April 12th, will no doubt welcome the grant news. But this will come at a cost.

Hospitality venues have been particularly hard-hit over the pandemic with pubs like The Angel Inn and restaurants like Zintino spending the majority of their year closed. Many venues like the Town Mills made use of a government scheme last year which part-paid for food orders.

The Chancellor’s ‘Help Out to Eat Out’ scheme was since heavily criticised by the pub sector. Today it appears that the Chancellor began to agree with Wetherspoon’s founder Tim Martin who says there is no connection between the spread of the virus and pubs.

On Sky News today Mr Sunak said that the South West had seen the greatest use (by proportion of population) of the scheme which provided subsidised menu options to encourage people into pubs, yet the South West saw the lowest incidences of Covid-19.

Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin continually says there are no correlations between hospitality venues being open and the spread of the disease. Mr Martin claims that Wetherspoon’s had registered more than 50m customer visits to its pubs using the test-and-trace system “without a single outbreak of Covid-19, as defined by the health authorities.”

Previously pubs were forced to sell food in order for customers to consume alcohol, they had been told to only serve customers outside and have to adopt an ‘evening curfew’. A survey by long-standing publican Alex Gillies from The Station Inn on Bridge Street showed only 1 in 12 local pubs believed they were viable following the ‘Tiered’ restrictions on hospitality.

Under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s current plans, pubs may open from April 12th, as long as customers are outside and seated.