FRESH support has been announced as a step towards helping businesses hit by Covid restrictions survive 'the Christmas present no-one wanted'.

Rishi Sunak has offered a £1 billion package amid concerns over the high transmission of the Omicron variant, with additional help for hospitality and leisure in England.

Calls are now being made for local authorities to prioritise the distribution of these funds to protect jobs and businesses through the challenging days ahead.

The support has been welcomed 'as a step towards helping businesses' but some fear it doesn't go far enough to ensure survival.

The support includes one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the affected sectors in England, to be administered by local authorities and be available in the coming weeks.

The Government also intends to use taxpayers’ cash to cover statutory sick pay for Covid-related absences for firms with fewer than 250 employees.

Cultural organisations can also access a further £30 million during the winter via the culture recovery fund.

The Rook & Gaskill pub in Lawrence Street, York, took to Twitter, saying: "Just to put the announcement today from RishiSunak into proportion, last week's takings in a small-sized business down nearly £4,000 on the previous week - on 50% margins that’s £2,000 profit.

"This week likely to be the same - I’ll get prob £2,000 grant based on rateable value."

Businesses have seen takings plummet due to festivities being scaled back amid fear over the spread of Omicron.

Rebecca Hill, owner of Galtres Lodge and Forest Restaurant in York, said: "Whilst we appreciate any support, and without wanting to sound ungrateful, £6,000 is what we should take on a good Saturday at this time of year, and we are quite a small business.

"So, unfortunately, it might not be enough to 'save' businesses without other reserves available.

"Depending on what restrictions are put in place, the lack of mention of furlough is also very concerning."

The extra support builds on existing schemes in place to assist businesses, the Treasury said.

York Press:

Carolyn Frank, of York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: "It is good to see the Chancellor listening to our support asks and responding, particularly with statutory sick pay rebate, business rates relief and targeted support for leisure and hospitality.

"We know that small businesses are feeling the hit of Covid again and this package announcement is a step towards helping them financially.

"At FSB we maintain that support needs to move in step with restrictions if businesses are to survive.

"There is intense pressure on many sectors and omicron was the Christmas present no-one wanted, but we need government to deal with effects of the health crisis with appropriate economic measures so welcome this intervention."

The Chancellor has also committed to a top-up of discretionary grant funding and the release of a £1.5 billion package to support the supply chain.

The rent moratorium remains in place and commercial landlords have been asked to show patience with struggling hospitality tenants.

Councillor Andrew Waller has cautiously welcomed today’s announcement made by the Chancellor to allocate a one-off support grant to hospitality businesses, urging for clarity and longer term planning, recognising that there will be businesses that have seen an impact who are not included in today’s announcements, with further support needed.

York Press:

Councillor Andrew Waller wrote to the Chancellor earlier last week highlighting the need for urgent support to hospitality, tourism and travel businesses who are being hit the hardest over this holiday period.

Cllr Waller, executive member for economy and strategic planning, said businesses needed certainty over amounts and timing of support as well possible future restrictions, which will impact how many businesses will prepare for New Year’s Eve and the new year.

He said City of York Council will work to ensure hese funds will be distributed as soon as possible, but added: "It’s clear that this one-off grant is little consolation for hospitality businesses that have seen revenues collapse at the busiest time of year.

"Many businesses were relying on making up some revenue to cover previous losses, and to see them through the quieter months in the first quarter of the New Year.

"More financial support will be needed, particularly if new restrictions come in after Christmas.

"Many businesses are losing tens of thousands a week at the moment due to the stealth lockdown measures, this support will barely cover overheads for many.

“As always, we await further details and many questions remain over today’s announcements.

"It may be some weeks before the Government send through the details on how the funding can be distributed, and we appreciate that this is frustrating for businesses struggling with cash flow problems.

"We will continue to press for these details as well as the funding to be provided as soon as possible so it can be distributed quickly to suffering businesses.

“Crucially for our city, the hospitality grants are welcome news and we sincerely hope that these will be universal and government guidance will not tie the hands of local councils once again in eligibility criteria and other demands.

"Some companies in supply chains have been missed out previously, and we hope that the resources, when spread over the eligible companies, will be sufficient to keep them running."

Mike Cartwright, Policy & Representation Executive, of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We welcome the measures from the Chancellor, which we have been asking for since the Plan B restrictions were announced.

“They will provide some respite to the businesses who have been hit hardest by the latest Covid measures. However, if the restrictions persist or are tightened further, then a wider support package, equal to the scale of any new measures, would need to be put in place.

“The Chancellor and his team have engaged with our colleagues at the British Chambers of Commerce recently, and we’ve been able to highlight particular experiences facing businesses at this difficult time.

“With the Omicron variant putting more pressures on public health and the economy, the difficulties may persist for some time to come and so it’s important to get the grants out as quickly as possible.”

Kate Nicholls, UK Hospitality CEO, said the package builds on existing measures to provide an emergency cash injection for businesses who, through no fault of their own, have seen their most valuable trading period annihilated.

“It will help to secure jobs and business viability in the short term, particularly among small businesses in the sector, and we particularly welcome the boost to funds for the supply chain and event and business catering companies so badly affected by the reintroduction of work from home guidelines.

“There is now a real urgency in getting this funding to businesses so we urge local authorities to prioritise distribution of funds to make sure jobs and businesses are preserved through this difficult period.”

East Yorkshire MP Sir Greg Knight cautioned that more help may be necessary.

“This is one of the most important trading periods of the year for pubs and restaurants. However, this Christmas, pubs will sell 37 million fewer pints and lose out on nearly £300 million in trade. This is roughly £6,000 for each pub, during this holiday period."

Information from Hospitality UK confirms that many businesses have already lost 40-60% of their December trade.

Pubs and restaurants across the UK have experienced cancellations and reduced footfall in what should be one of the busiest and festive times of the year. 

Sir Greg said: "We don’t yet know what the New Year will hold and what the full impact of the new Omicron variant of Covid will be.

“This help is most timely but more may still need to be done to help pubs and other hospitality venues survive in the winter months ahead”.