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Independent Welsh hospitality firms will not benefit from new job support scheme

Natalie Isaac

The Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective (WIRC) has warned that independent hospitality businesses will not see any benefit from the newly announced Job Support Scheme.

They highlight that it does not make financial sense for hospitality to pay staff 55% of their wages for 33% of their time, against a backdrop of being unable to trade at normal incomes.

Following the statement from the Commons yesterday by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, the WIRC, which represents over 300 independent cafes, pubs and restaurants across Wales, has expressed dismay that yet again the sector has been “hung out to dry’’.

They argue that the Chancellor’s statement shows a deep lack of understanding of the increasingly fragile financial position of the sector.

Speaking on behalf of the WIRC, Natalie Isaac from the Bar 44 group said, “In a week where further restrictions have been placed on the sector, strangling our ability to trade – the Government has missed the opportunity to offer support, and instead offered a package that is completely ineffective in preventing what will now surely be a cascade of job losses across the country.

Whilst we welcome the VAT relief offered, realistically this will not benefit businesses like ours until 2021.”

The WIRC has drawn attention to the fact that the new Job Retention Scheme is heavily weighted in favour of full-time jobs, whilst as an industry, hospitality is a great part time employer, helping many people top up their incomes whilst studying, or offering flexibility around childcare.

Natalie continued “41% of women work part time, so the now inevitable job losses will also have a disproportionately negative impact on women.”

The comments from the WIRC come as more local lockdowns are announced across Wales, including in Cardiff. The new rules mean that only people from within one immediate household can eat / drink indoors.

Cerys Furlong, who operates two pubs and a neighbourhood restaurant in the city, said “With every new announcement and further restrictions we are seeing bookings cancelled and fewer people coming to our venues. The recent announcements from the UK Government do nothing to support our businesses and enable us to safeguard jobs. We now look to Welsh Government urgently to address this, or we will see job losses and business closures in the coming weeks”

In a statement shared today on social media, the WIRC said:

“We are viable. As we have seen in what was left of this year’s holiday season, Wales saw unprecedented visitor numbers as more of the UK chose to take a ‘staycation’, a trend that will surely continue into 2021 and beyond. It is paramount to ensure that in a post-Covid landscape, we can still provide a rich and diverse independent hospitality offering. Our members have already demonstrated how creative and adaptable they are at dealing with the restrictions placed on them. The Welsh economy needs these businesses to stay alive.

The UK Government has clearly failed to support the hospitality industry. We call on the Welsh government urgently to support our businesses, as pillars of the foundational economy, supporting thousands of jobs and skilled trades in our supply chains right across Wales. We need to prevent deep and long scarring at the heart of our communities.”