Sheffield hospitality firms 'will go under' due to delays in Omicron grants councillor claims

Hospitality businesses will ‘wither and go under’ due to delays in handing out Covid grants in Sheffield, a councillor has claimed.

By David Walsh
Monday, 17th January 2022, 2:20 pm

Companies ‘need support now’ to keep going after a tough Christmas which saw the Omicron surge hit takings, according to Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed.

WHEN WERE SUPPORT GRANTS ANNOUCED?

He spoke out after the Government said on January 7 it had distributed millions to councils and businesses were ‘encouraged to apply’.

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Lib Dem leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed.

The Lib Dem leader said: “Businesses desperate for cash flow need this money to survive. This delay means some will wither and some will go under.

“What lessons have they learnt from last time? We’re sleepwalking into the same situation. It’s not the first time this has happened on Mazher Iqbal’s watch.”

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In 2020, Sheffield City Council was given £113m by the Government to help local businesses during the first wave of the pandemic.

‘Plan B’ measures triggered a wave of cancellations that will see some venues go out of business, according to Justin Rowntree, founder of Silversmiths on Arundel Street and now a hospitality consultant.

HOW MUCH WAS UNSPENT IN 2020?

Some £16m was handed back after the authority ‘failed to give the money out in time’, the Lib Dems say.

Coun Mazher Iqbal was cabinet member for business in 2020. Today he is executive member for city futures: development, culture and regeneration.

HOW MUCH IS AVAILABLE FOR FIRMS?

On January 7, Government announced grants of up to £6,000 for hospitality firms worst-hit by the Omicron variant as part of a £1bn support package.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said they had delivered funding to councils across the nation and businesses are encouraged to apply.

He also said that ‘in addition’, more than £100 million worth of discretionary funding was being made available for local authorities to support other businesses.

He said then: “I urge businesses to come forward, engage with their local council and tap into these cash grants, which will help to cover costs and protect jobs as we double down on our efforts to get boosted and defeat this virus.”

On January 11, Sheffield City Council said officials were developing the Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant and the Additional Restrictions Grant and would announce ‘in the next week’ when applications were open.

Hospitality firms suffered a decline in footfall and increased cancellations during the critical Christmas period due to the Omicron variant.

Experts said the sector was in a worse situation than at any time in the pandemic due to the end of government support, such as grants or furlough, and debts from loans.

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