Financial Support for Independent Cinemas
I recognise the immense value that entertainment venues, such as cinemas, bring to local communities. They provide much needed social interaction for people across all ages, so it is regrettable that the current national lockdown prohibits them from opening. I am determined that as many as possible are able to reopen their doors when the pandemic is passed.
Since the start of the pandemic, a broad range of support has been made available to the hospitality and leisure sectors, including for cinemas. This includes a one-year business rates holiday worth over £10 billion as well as a temporary reduction to VAT. I also warmly welcome the fact that 42 cinemas from across England have received a cash boost worth £650,000 from the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund in the first awards made by the British Film Institute. This is the first tranche of money from the £30 million fund for independent cinemas.
I am also delighted with the Chancellor's recent announcement that £4.6billion has been made available in new lockdown grants to support businesses and protect jobs. Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors are to receive a one off grant worth up to £9,000 per property to help them through to the Spring. Furthermore, a £594million discretionary fund has been made available to support other impacted businesses. This comes in addition to £1.1billion further discretionary grant funding for Local Authorities, as well as Local Restrictions Support Grants worth up to £3,000 a month.
Financial Support for Pubs
No one wants to see further restrictions and I understand that many pub landlords have concerns about the new lockdown measures. However, in light of the rapid spread of the virus across the country and the current transmission rates, these measures are regrettably necessary to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.
The closure of pubs has been difficult to bear, and the Government is rightly providing significant support for hospitality businesses. It is reassuring that the Chancellor has unveiled further economic support for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, including pubs, in light of the new lockdown restrictions. New one-off top-up grants have been announced, worth up to £9,000 per property, to help businesses through to the spring.
For those businesses not eligible for the grants, a £594 million discretionary fund is being made available by the Government as a matter of urgency. The new one-off grants come in addition to billions of pounds of existing business support, including grants worth up to £3,000 for closed businesses, and up to £2,100 per month for impacted businesses once they reopen.
I understand that pubs have been subject to debilitating restrictions for a long time, and I hear requests for a longer-term sector-specific package of support. While I take account of your concerns, and will bear them in mind, I welcome that pubs have had access to unprecedented levels of support throughout the pandemic. Ministers have been forthcoming in unveiling support grants, business rates relief, Government-backed loans and access to schemes such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. As a package, these measures worked to support publicans and I know that Ministers will continue to respond to developments as they happen.
I welcome that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until April in response to new national restrictions, and to give people and businesses across the whole United Kingdom the certainty they need over what will be a difficult winter. Under the extension, the Government will pay 80 per cent of wages up to a cap of £2,500, with employers paying employer National Insurance Contributions and pension contributions only for the hours the employee does not work. Flexible furloughing will be allowed in addition to full-time furloughing.
Despite this, I am glad that evidence continues to be collected on the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality sector and we must look forward to the easing of restrictions as soon as possible. South Cambridgeshire is home to some excellent pubs, and it would be devastating to lose them. In a lot of cases, pubs are a pillar of the community and I have been making representations to Ministers at every opportunity for continued support for this sector.
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