Leicester bars and restaurants buck government’s Covid hospitality bailout trend

New figures show the UK hospitality industry has not made the most of financial support on offer during the Omicron wave of coronavirus. But Leicester bucked the trend, with the City Council doling out even more here than it received from the government.

As the Omicron wave arrived last fall, spreading rapidly and leading to illness, staff absences and people staying away from hospitality venues, the government stepped in with a ‘war chest’ of winter of £635m to keep businesses running. But with the deadline for submitting applications now passed, only £305million, or less than half, has actually been spent.

However, Leicester had no shortage of takers, with Leicester City Council today named as one of the few councils that not only handed over their entire cash allocation, but even dipped into their own funds to maintain the pubs, cafes, bars, restaurants and clubs that come through the winter.

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Businesses could claim up to £6,000 to have their second quiet Christmas in a row. Software company Altus Group’s analysis of official government data shows that while 29 councils failed to distribute a single penny of struggling business grants, Leicester City Council and six other councils went above and beyond , handing out more than the government gave them.

The London Borough of Barnet was the biggest spender, paying out just under £2.5million at the end of February, nearly 40 per cent more than it was allocated. There are no figures for Leicester in the Altus report, but it does state that Leicester City Council, Bradford City Metropolitan Borough Council, Warrington Borough Council, Bury Council, Burnley Borough Council and Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council have all overspent.

Robert Hayton, UK chairman of Altus Group, described the grant scheme as a “postcode lottery”. He said: ‘These types of businesses have seen one of their most valuable trading periods wiped out and just haven’t gotten the support they needed fast enough.

The analysis comes as corporate rates climbed on Friday, April 1, as the government scaled back its pandemic financial support measures. VAT levels also returned to 20% in the hospitality sector on Friday after falling to 5% during the pandemic, in a move that could significantly increase prices for customers. UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls said it ‘could prove fatal’ for business owners.

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