So where’s the Chancellor? Rishi Sunak under fire over ‘long-planned work trip’ to California while Omicron wreaks havoc with UK’s pubs and restaurants as hospitality bosses demand Chancellor ‘shows up’ to provide new Covid financial support
The Chancellor is still in the US for what Downing Street has described as a ‘long planned trip’.
The timing of the visit has prompted criticism as hospitality firms continue to urge the Treasury to bring forward new financial support to help pubs, bars and restaurants survive the winter.
Industry bosses are now demanding Mr Sunak ‘show up’ and agree to prop up the sector amid claims that the Government has imposed a ‘lockdown by stealth’.
The Chancellor and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke, held calls with hospitality chiefs this afternoon to discuss the impact of the variant.
Rishi Sunak is under fire after going on a work trip to California while the Omicron coronavirus variant wreaks havoc with the UK economy
The timing of the visit has prompted criticism as hospitality firms continue to urge the Treasury to bring forward new financial support to help pubs, bars and restaurants survive the winter
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman was asked this morning why the Chancellor’s trip had not been included on a list of Government engagements for the week.
He replied: ‘I don’t know, I’d have to refer to (the) Treasury on that for when it was finalised, but I believe my understanding is a long-planned, long-standing trip.’
A Treasury spokesman said: ‘The Chancellor is in the US on a long-planned trip conducting government business.
‘He is in constant contact with staff back home and will be speaking to UK hospitality businesses today to hear their concerns.’
Mr Sunak and Mr Clarke held one-on-one meetings with business and hospitality chiefs this afternoon.
Downing Street said some of the companies and organisations who took part were Prezzo, Black Sheep Brewery, Nando’s, Greene King, Whitbread, Adnams, the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses, British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors and UK Hospitality.
Number 10 said it recognised the ‘difficult position’ that the hospitality sector is in but did not commit to bringing forward additional financial support.
The boss of pub group Young’s has called for Mr Sunak to ‘show up’ and re-introduce a lower rate of VAT and business rates holidays.
Patrick Dardis, chief executive of the 220-strong group, said: ‘I have no idea where Rishi Sunak is right now but he needs to show up and give the industry his backing.’
Labour had called on the Government to announce a new package of business support by the end of today.
Boris Johnson’s advice to the nation to be cautious and Professor Chris Whitty’s call for people to limit their socialising in the run up to Christmas has caused a wave of hospitality cancellations.
Shadow Treasury minister Pat McFadden said of Mr Sunak: ‘Why did he decide to proceed with a trip to California on Tuesday when it was already clear that UK businesses were struggling to cope with what the Prime Minister himself has called a ‘tidal wave of Omicron’?
‘Even if he’s abroad, California is not exactly a communications desert. They have television there, I’ve even heard they have the internet, but it’s still radio silence from the Chancellor – tumbleweed rolling through the Treasury.’
Mr McFadden said the Chancellor needed to talk to UK businesses who are ‘losing bookings by the hour and watching their December profits vanish into thin air’.