Cumbria Tourism has welcomed the Chancellor’s Budget statement.
The county’s official tourism board says it has lobbied extensively over recent months for the extension of furlough and business rates relief, along with the retention of the five per cent VAT rate and further support for those individuals and businesses who have been excluded from previous financial packages.
Cumbria Tourism says the direct ‘real time’ evidence it has been able to provide – thanks to input from hundreds of businesses, alongside its regular briefings with Cumbria’s six MPs and regional and national partnerships, as well as meetings with the Tourism Minister and government officials – has ensured Cumbria’s voice has been amplified and heard at the highest levels in Government.
Managing director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, said: “This budget clearly acknowledges the key points we have been lobbying for at the highest levels of government for some time.
“We are pleased it recognises the implications of the phased way in which businesses will reopen in the coming months, with extra reopening costs, ongoing financial pressures and restrictions likely to remain in place.
“This will clearly impact on their ability to operate at pre-COVID levels for some time, so today’s news will be a big relief not only for hundreds of businesses but also thousands of employees across our county.
“We are also looking forward to hearing more detail about the new national initiatives to promote investment and competitiveness, such as the ‘super deduction’ scheme and ‘help to grow’, as well as understanding how the new restart grant and recovery loan scheme will work in practice.
“Cumbria Tourism will continue working on behalf of our tourism member businesses to help them take advantage of the opportunities that are available.
“We also recognise that much of the support ends before the winter which will undoubtedly be a challenging time, with so many businesses having lost so much trade since the pandemic began. So we will be monitoring the impact of reopening very closely.”
Richard Andrew, head of accounting and a partner at accountancy firm Armstrong Watson, specialises in the hospitality and leisure sector.
He said some of the measures announced by the Chancellor will be welcome by hospitality businesses in Cumbria.
He said: “The £5bn-worth of Restart Grants, of up to £18,000 for hospitality and leisure businesses, along with an extension to the business rates holiday until the end of June and an extension of the five per cent reduced rate of VAT for a further six months – followed by an interim rate of 12.5 per cent for another six months – will provide businesses with a little more stability, particularly in light of the season they missed last year and missing out on Easter this year before restrictions begin to ease.
“It’s been a difficult year for the industry which has faced the brunt of the restrictions, but hopefully this new package of support will help those in hospitality and leisure weather the end of the storm.”