City leaders call for Government support for hospitality and retail sectors

Leaders from across the city have sent an open letter to the Chancellor urgently calling for a comprehensive package of support for the hospitality and retail sectors which have been hit hard by the impact of the Covid crisis and ongoing lockdown restrictions.  

The letter has been signed by key business leaders and organisations from across the city, including Greg Dyke, Chair of Make It York, Cllr Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council, David Kerfoot MBE, DL, Chairman of York and North Yorkshire LEP, Carolyn Frank, Development Manager for Federation of Small Businesses North Yorkshire and Andrew Lowson, Executive Director, York Business Improvement District.  

The letter calls for a coordinated, comprehensive package of support for the sectors – including confirmation that the current reduced level of VAT will be maintained for a minimum of twelve months following the end of any final lockdown – and that the Business Rates relief and the furlough scheme will similarly be extended.  

City leaders further call for the Chancellor to consider a range of targeted government grants for the sector to deal with the ongoing challenges created by the pandemic. The letter also urges for an introduction from April 2021 of a new government-guaranteed, zero interest business loan scheme to ensure businesses have the necessary working capital or cashflow to restart post-pandemic. 

Greg Dyke, Chair of Make It York said, “Safeguarding the future of York’s hospitality and retail industry is absolutely vital and more must be done by the Government to protect and support the many businesses in the city within these sectors. The additional support measures we’re calling for are critical for ensuring that these sectors thrive post-pandemic, and that we protect businesses and jobs within the city.”  

Cllr Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council, commented: “Since the very beginning of this pandemic, we have been urging the Government to back York and provide the necessary funding to our local business community to help them through this incredibly challenging time. 

“With the economic impact of Covid-19 becoming ever more apparent, I am pleased to be joining partners from across the city to urge the Government to step up on this issue and provide a comprehensive package of support for York’s hospitality and retail sectors.  York has the qualities to build back better from this pandemic, but the Government must provide the funding to support our recovery and most importantly, protect businesses, jobs and livelihoods. 

The letter is included in full below and is on the Make It York website here.    

Dear Chancellor, 

We are writing on behalf of the hospitality and retail sectors in York, including hotels, pubs, shops, restaurants and other leisure venues. 

While we are very appreciative of the support government has provided to our sectors, most recently through the one-off grants of up to £9,000, we believe the industry, together with its extensive supply chain, has reached such a critical point that its survival in any recognisable form is now in doubt. In York alone, hundreds of businesses, all previously going concerns, and 10,000 jobs are at immediate risk of being lost unless decisive action is taken now. 

As such, we are calling for coordinated, comprehensive package of support for the sectors, including: 

1. Confirmation that the current reduced level of VAT will be maintained for a minimum of 12 months following the end of any final lockdown. 

2. Confirmation that Business Rates relief and the furlough scheme will similarly be extended. 

3. The replacement of the government’s current Code of Practice for Commercial Property Relationships During the COVID-19 Pandemic with mandatory provisions requiring landlords to reduce rents by 50% on properties occupied by tenants whose businesses are prohibited from trading by COVID-19 restrictions. This is necessary to avoid the accumulation of impossible levels of rent arrears which will preclude otherwise viable businesses opening again post-pandemic. With respect to smaller landlords, it may be necessary for government to underwrite the 50% rent loss. 

4. A range of targeted government grants for the sector to deal with the ongoing challenges. In particular, grants to facilitate the installation of air scrubbing UV ventilation systems, so important in dealing with indoor transmission and eliminating COVID and any future similar outbreaks. 

5. The introduction from April 2021 of a new government-guaranteed, zero interest business loan scheme, with realistic repayment thresholds and flexible timescales. Without these loans otherwise viable businesses will not have the working capital or cashflow necessary to restart post-pandemic. 

We fully appreciate the enormous current demands on government and on the public purse. We make this appeal however on the basis that this package, and its ability to secure the futures of hundreds of viable businesses, will prove to be significantly less costly to UK plc than the alternative of not acting now. 

We are very happy to meet, virtually or if conditions allow in person, to discuss further and provide any necessary additional information if that would be helpful. 

Yours sincerely 

Greg Dyke, Chair, Make It York 

Cllr Keith Aspden, Leader, City of York Council 

David Kerfoot MBE, DL, Chairman, York and North Yorkshire LEP 

Andrew Lowson, Executive Director, York Business Improvement District 

Carolyn Frank, Development Manager for Federation of Small Businesses North Yorkshire – On behalf of FSB York 

Martin Bradnam, Chairperson, Hospitality Association York 

Phil Pinder, Chairperson, York Retail Forum 

Harkirit Boparai, York Music Venue Network 

Paul Crossman, Operator of three public houses in York 

Cc.Julian Sturdy, MP for York Outer  

     Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central 

For further information please contact:  

Amy Goodman, Consumer Communications Manager 

Email: comms@makeityork.com   

Notes to editors: 

About Make It York  

Make It York’s purpose is to develop and promote the city and its surroundings – nationally and internationally – as a vibrant and attractive place to live, visit, study, work and do business. Its mission is to grow the economic prosperity and wider wellbeing of York and its citizens. In practice, this means delivering a range of projects and programmes based around our four corporate strategic priorities.  These are:  

  • City positioning and profile-raising 
  • Inward Investment and network building 
  • Ensuring an exciting city centre 
  • Delivering the city’s ground-breaking Cultural Strategy