£5 billion rescue scheme for UK high street

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £5 billion scheme to help support high street shops and hospitality businesses as they look to find their footing post-pandemic.

The announcement, which formed part of the Spring Budget, aims to help businesses as restrictions in England are eased and we move out of lockdown.

The grants are designed to avoid mass redundancies as the economy struggles to recover from the impact of Covid-19, reports the BBC.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Sunak acknowledged that the retail and hospitality sectors had faced an “incredibly difficult year” and that the grants would give them the “support they need to get them through, [and] get them back on their feet.”

He continued by saying: “Local businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic – which is why we went big and went early with a multibillion pound package of support.”

The so-called ‘restart grants’ could see nearly 700,000 businesses receiving up to £18,000 each. The money would be distributed directly to eligible businesses by local authorities from April this year, replacing the current monthly grant scheme.

The funding news has been welcomed by the retail industry, but some groups feel the support does not go far enough.

Speaking about the announcement, Helen Dickinson, CEO of the British Retail Consortium, described the grants as a “vital injection of funding”. However, she pointed out that it would “only provide temporary relief” if the business rate holiday did not continue.

Meanwhile, Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Business, urged the Chancellor to release more funding “for those that have been excluded from income support throughout this crisis.”

Other groups have called for an extension to the furlough scheme and a temporary drop in VAT on hospitality sales.

According to the Treasury, these retail grants will take the total spend on direct grants to businesses as a result of the pandemic to £25 billion.

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