The chancellor has ditched business rates for those in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors for the rest of the year to help them deal with the effects of the coronavirus crisis.
Grants of up to £25,000 have also been made available to smaller companies that do not have the relevant insurances “to help bridge through this period.”
Rishi Sunak, who became chancellor in the recent government reshuffle, set out the measures in the latest of the government’s daily coronavirus briefings.
Sunak said: “We will be extending the business rates holiday to all businesses in those sectors [retail, leisure and hospitality] irrespective of rateable value.
It was part of an “unprecedented package” of £330 billion to support UK companies of all sizes through the coronavirus pandemic – amounting to about 15% of the UK’s GDP.
Those measures will also include an extension of the government’s Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which was announced in last week’s Budget.
Small and medium-sized businesses will now be able to access loans of £5 million rather than £1.2 million – with interest waived for the first six months.
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Sunak added: “Any business that needs access to cash will be able to access a government-backed loan or credit on attractive terms”
The loans scheme will be introduced “by the start of next week”.
The measures will be a welcome break for retail travel agencies large and small as they battle to cut costs as booking have dried up amid global travel restrictions.
Abta welcomed the chancellor’s “positive statement of intent”.
Chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “We will need the government to follow-through on its commitment to “do whatever it takes” to support struggling UK travel businesses.
“We also need to see some of the measures announced today, such as the government-backed loan scheme, made immediately available to travel businesses, and further clarity on how businesses will be able to access these loans.
“It is also essential the government acts immediately by making temporary changes to existing package travel regulations. The existing financial protection structures and processes designed to protect UK consumers were not designed to cope with the demands that are currently being placed on them.”
Sunak said he would also be providing a separate package for airlines and airports.
He added: “We have never faced an economic fight like this one but we ae well-prepared and we will do whatever it takes.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson said: “This is a package to support businesses large and small.
“We are making sure they have the cashflow that they need. This is a quite extraordinary effort to put liquidity into the economy at a difficult time.
“One day the UK economy will bounce back and that’s why we are taking these steps.”
The TSSA union urged the chancellor to guarantee no jobs in the travel trade would be lost.
General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “[The government] must be focussed on keeping businesses afloat without a single job lost.
“The travel trade faces the prospect of losing jobs hands over fist, as do many other industries. That must not be allowed to happen.
“Government must also stand ready to fully support agency staff, freelancers and all workers in a precarious position such as those working in the gig economy.
“Sunak must be crystal clear and give guarantees to that end.”
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