Keeping VAT low 'crucial' for pubs' Covid recovery

James Wild, North West Norfolk MP. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

James Wild, North West Norfolk MP. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

A Norfolk MP has called for the government to offer more support to the businesses "at the heart of our community”, a move one publican said was vital for their recovery.

North West Norfolk MP James Wild has suggested ways the Treasury could help support local businesses highlighting the £500million contribution the hospitality industry makes to the area’s economy. 

Mr Wild said last year saw a massive collapse in demand, with redundancies disproportionately hitting young people. 

While Mr Wild welcomed the one-off grants of £9,000 for hospitality businesses, he said many employers have taken on considerable debt and have to cover national insurance costs for staff who are furloughed. 

He suggested allowing pubs to sell alcoholic drinks in takeaway containers during lockdown, and for the hospitality sector VAT rate be kept as 5pc until the end of the year instead of returning to 20pc in March as currently planned.

Kath Long, owner of the Anvil Inn, in Congham, supported Mr Wild’s to keep the VAT cut.

“It will be absolutely vital to keep the rate set at 5pc - it is crucial,” she said.  

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“If we go back now there will be many businesses like ours that may not survive. 

“We are so far down this year, the sheer cost of everything - the rent, the electricity, everything.” 

The Anvil Inn in Congham

Kath Long, owner of the Anvil Inn in Congham, has supported North West Norfolk MP James Wild's call to keep VAT rates low - Credit: Google Street View

Ms Long, who has been running the Anvil Inn with her husband Karl for nine years, had to furlough all her staff when the lockdown hit.

She described the virus as a “kick in the guts” and keeping VAT lower will help them recover.  

Mr Wild agreed, in parliament, he said extending the cut alongside business rate holidays “will help firms to survive and be there when the reopening comes”.  

Even after the lockdown is over, Mrs Long does not expect things will return to normal immediately.  

“There will be a shortage of confidence from some people at going out like they used to. They will need to see it is safe. 

"I expect masks and screens will stick around for a while.” 

Despite this, Mrs Long remains positive about the future. 

“At least we have the vaccine now, which is a slight ray of hope,” she said.  

“It’s a case of trying to get back to normal as quickly as possible. 

“We have worked long and hard to get this business to where it is and we are not about to quit now. We will plough ahead.”