Lord was “concerned” for businesses and people in the North. “At a time when we are supposed to be levelling up,” he said, “we are only seeing the divide between rich and poor widen."
He continued: "The hospitality sector is well known for employing college leavers or those needing flexible careers in order to care for children or elderly parents, and it is a vital employer in some of the most deprived areas of our region.
"Our industry needs to stay afloat in order to keep providing these work opportunities and I fear for the survival of many businesses.”
Pubs and restaurants are seeing difficulties across the board, from tax hikes, inflated price rises for produce and ingredients and surging energy costs, on top of existing Covid debt. According to Lord, the planned VAT rise from 12.5% to 20% in April would only exacerbate the "perilous financial position" of many businesses.
He urged the Chancellor to reconsider an extension to the current rate in the Spring Statement, to stave off closures across the sector and the loss of thousands of jobs.
This is echoed by leaders across the sector: an inquiry held by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Hospitality and Tourism called for VAT to remain at 12.5%, and hundreds of hospitality business leaders wrote to the Chancellor urging him to keep the lowered VAT rate.
Starting to listen
In conversation with The Morning Advertiser on Friday, Lord talked about the history of Government not listening to hospitality during the pandemic.
The 10pm curfew, enforced in September 2020, in fact led to a quicker spread of the virus, due to an influx of customers leaving venues at once, Lord said. What’s more, the rule that you could only visit pubs if ordering a substantial meal, enforced in November 2020, was unfair for wet-led pubs and those who visited them.
However, he said, “we are in a better place now”, with Government working in partnership with industry leaders and trade bodies like UKHospitality.