£40m emergency fund launched for LCR hospitality sector

Paul Askew
X The Business Desk

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An emergency fund of up to £40m launches today (October 15) in a bid to protect Liverpool City Region’s vital hospitality and leisure businesses from the huge economic impact COVID-19 restrictions are having on the sector.

First announced on October 2, by the Metro Mayor and the Mayor and leaders of the city region’s six local authorities, the fund had been created and readied for launch earlier last week.

However, it was paused following the Chancellor’s announcement last Friday on the national furlough scheme and business support package and the announcement of Liverpool City Region being placed in to the Tier Three ‘very high risk’ COVID-19 category.

Over the past few days, combined authority and local authority officers have been working closely with the hospitality sector to understand how the fund could best be redesigned to support them.

The fund aims to enable viable businesses to continue trading and retain as many jobs as possible, support temporarily closed businesses to top up employees’ wages and remain solvent, and to help lay the ground for economic recovery across the hospitality and leisure sector in the future.

It will be used to help keep businesses in the sector afloat for up to four months, until a wider and more substantial financial support package can be secured from central government.

The aim is that the first funding will reach applicants within 10 days of applications being approved, with subsequent payments phased over the period of the grant.

A ‘grant application window’ will open at 10am tomorrow, Friday, October 16, and will close at 5pm on Friday, October 30.

Eligible businesses wishing to apply should visit their own local authority websites for details and will be able to apply online when the window opens.

Detailed eligibility criteria will be available to applicants and will include:

  • Small and micro hospitality and leisure businesses
  • Based in the Liverpool City Region – Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral
  • One full-time equivalent employee or more
  • Going concern
  • Business to consumer
  • Trading from a commercial premises

In a joint statement, the Metro Mayor, City Mayor and leaders of the city region’s six local authorities said: “The past six months have been an exceptionally difficult period for local businesses, but despite the challenges they have faced, many have done an incredible job, showcasing the creativity, determination and resilience our region is known for.

“We know business owners and staff are absolutely at breaking point and we will do anything we can to prevent businesses and jobs going to the wall.

“The furlough scheme announced by the Chancellor last week falls far short of what our region needs and deserves.

“If 80% was the right level of support back in March, then it should be in November. Lots of the people affected by these new restrictions will be in low paid, insecure work and it is deeply unfair to expect them to survive on two-thirds of the minimum wage.

“We will continue to fight for a more comprehensive funding package, but in the meantime, where the national government has stepped away, we, as local leaders, will step up.

“We know that once a business is gone, they are gone, and we must do everything we can to prevent that.

“Our hope is that this fund can provide some interim support and will mean local businesses and their staff survive in the coming weeks and months, until the Government does the right thing.

“Our own teams have worked round the clock, in partnership with the sector, to get this fund ready for applications.

“We are committed to ensuring that we turn applications round at pace and get money to those businesses who so desperately need it.

“If, and when, we are successful in securing more national support, it may well replace the need for this fund, enabling us to repurpose the money back to other areas where it is also sorely needed.”

Paul Askew, chef patron of The Art School restaurant in Liverpool, and co chair of the Liverpool Hospitality Association, said: “The new Tier Three restrictions are a real hammer blow for hundreds of businesses in our sector and for thousands of our staff.

“I’ve been pleased to work with our colleagues in the combined authority and the six local authorities to help shape it to our needs.

“It will provide an urgent lifeline to hundreds of viable businesses who might otherwise face closing for good due to the restrictions.

“While this fund is hugely welcomed, I join the Metro Mayor, City Mayor and local authority leaders in calling on the Government to now step up quickly to provide the hospitality sector and our whole economy with the full support we need.”