Government £1bn grant scheme criticised by Worthing and Littlehampton restaurant owner

A restaurant owner has criticised the £1bn fund for the hospitality sector saying it falls ‘far short’.

On Tuesday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £1billion fund to help businesses hit hard by Covid cancellations.

Many restaurants and other businesses in the hospitality sector which have already suffered during the pandemic have now been hit by concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant, with many customers cancelling their bookings over the Christmas season.

Mr Sunak said in his announcement on Tuesday that businesses like pubs and restaurants would be able to claim a cash grant of up to £6,000 per premises, and that the government would also help some firms with the cost of sick pay for Covid-related absences.

Andy Sparsis, owner of The Fat Greek Taverna in Worthing, challenged the Employment Minister and local MP for Worthing to work a shift in his restaurant

He also announced an extra £30million for theatres and museums and said businesses other than hospitality and leisure couldapply for some funding.

Mr Sunak called the new support ‘generous’ and when asked if more support would be offered, he said he would ‘always respond proportionately and appropriately to the situation we face’.

However, Andy Sparsis, who owns The Fish Factory restaurants in Worthing and Littlehampton and The Fat Greek Taverna in Worthing, disagreed the fund wass generous.

About 60 per cent of the Christmas bookings at Mr Sparsis’s restaurants have been cancelled and he did not believe the grants were enough.

He said: “The offer from the government is far short of any financial help. The offer of £6,000 does not even cover losses from one week. This grant is a maximum and most family run businesses will get far less than this.

“To really stuff our turkey this Christmas, we have no idea whether or not to purchase stock for the next weeks or to ask our financially hit staff to work or take an unpaid holiday as we wish them merry Christmas. Unfortunately, the government has tried in the past to protect the industry, but the good has been undone.

“We hope the government understands that the VAT is up, rates are up, minimum wage is up, PAYE is up and we have been taxed on furlough that was given to our staff.

“Hopefully the government want to listen to us, but if they are looking for us they will find us under the bus.”

Shevaun Haviland, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the new support would provide ‘welcome respite’ to many firms affected by Covid measures, but warned that more could be needed in the coming weeks.