Addressing the House of Commons on Monday 11 January, Sunak warned that the economy would "get worse before it gets better" and that recently increased national restrictions were necessary to control the spread of Covid-19.
However, recent reports have stated that new measures in tandem with stifled economic performance in final quarter of 2020 have left the UK on the brink of its first double-dip recession since 1975, according to the British Chambers of Commerce.
The current national lockdown is expected to extend into early spring, however it has been recently reported that pubs and bars could remain closed until May.
Yet, when quizzed on further support for businesses, Sunak refused to be drawn on furlough scheme extensions, business rates relief and a VAT cut, instead referring to existing fiscal stimulus worth £280bn and the fact that 1.2m employers had already furloughed almost 10m employees.
“The budget is the appropriate place to consider those [measures] given the scale of the response and indeed the fact that all of our major avenues of support have been extended through to the spring,” he said.
What’s more, when asked about potential support for the ailing hospitality industry, he replied: “I will bear in mind other avenues for future support.
“As we come out of this it will be important that the hospitality industry is given every possible chance to succeed and flourish.”
Sunak’s comments prompted shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds to accuse him of being “out of ideas” and providing “nothing new”.
“The purpose of an update is to provide us with new information, not to repeat what we already know,” she said.
While Sunak’s statement comes less than a month after he announced the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of April and following the reveal of a £4.6bn fund to support shuttered businesses in early January, a recent survey by The Morning Advertiser found that around one-in-four operators are yet to receive grants from second lockdown.
This came after it was also found that some 446 pubs ‘vanished’ from communities in England and Wales last year – equalling 37 per month or roughly one ever 20 hours, according to figures from real estate advisor the Altus Group.
However, the sector received a small boost on 11 January after MPs voted in favour of a motion to appoint a dedicated minister of hospitality following a 90-minute House of Commons debate.
Yet, while the motion gained cross-party support in what has been described as a “lively” debate highlighting the challenges facing pubs, bars and restaurants, there will be no direct action as a result – though it is hoped that it will increase pressure on the Prime Minister to support the sector.