Give public vouchers to spend in pubs, think tank urges Chancellor

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Cash boost: could giving consumers money to spend in pubs help the trade recover?
Cash boost: could giving consumers money to spend in pubs help the trade recover?

Related tags Coronavirus

A think tank has proposed every person in Britain be given a voucher to spend in the high street businesses hardest hit by the Covid-19 crisis, including pubs.

The Resolution Foundation has called on Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to provide each household with vouchers worth £500 per adult and £250 for children to be spent in shops and venues.

It suggested this £30bn scheme should be delivered by vouchers or smartcards and be valid for year, with the possibility of pausing this period for any businesses forced to shut in the event of Covid-19 outbreaks.

The think tank said the scheme would focus on the sectors which need the most help with recovering, such as hospitality.

Confidence issue

Critics of the proposal have said the biggest challenges for sectors like hospitality are not disposable income but a lack of confidence about returning to out-of-home spaces because of a fear of catching Covid-19 and a change in consumer habits in favour of cheap nights in.

Publicans have previously shared their apprehension about consumer confidence in the weeks to come with The Morning Advertiser despite many reporting strong sales on 'Super Saturday'​. ​ Ahead of the 4 July reopening, several pub companies and brewers launched campaigns promoting pub safety measures​ and encouraged people to support their locals, such as Carlsberg’s Love My Local and Greene King’s Pub Safe initiatives.

The suggestion comes ahead of a speech from Sunak where he will outline plans to help the economy recover on Wednesday 8 July.

Targeted support

James Smith, research director at the Resolution Foundation, said the economic hardships resulting from the Covid-19 crisis had not had a universal impact, with some sectors disproportionately hit.

He explained: “Social distancing has huge implications for firms in sectors like retail, hospitality, tourism and leisure that will last into the forthcoming reopening phase. That is why the jobs of so many workers in these sectors are in the firing line.

“A universal ‘High Street Voucher’ scheme – worth £500 per adult and £250 per child – to be spent only in these sectors would kickstart demand in the right parts of our economy, boost living standards and deliver targeted support to the businesses that need help the most.

“The Chancellor has already shown that big, bold measures like the Job Retention Scheme are welcome and necessary in the current economic climate. He should take this same approach as we enter the crucial recovery phase of the crisis.”

More than 100 chief executives in the pub and restaurant sector have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to adopt a series of measures that will revive the trade and protect jobs.

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