“Too little, too late” – Carmichael responds to Omicron fiscal measures from Chancellor

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has said that the Chancellor’s new fiscal support for businesses struggling with the rising Omicron wave of Covid cases was “too little, too late”. Rishi Sunak announced new fiscal measures today in the form of renewed rebates for statutory sick pay for small- and medium-sized businesses, and a one-off £6,000 grant for hospitality and leisure businesses affected by the new wave. Business leaders have already voiced concerns about the proposals and called for greater certainty on future restrictions.

Mr Carmichael said:

“This is all too little, too late – after days with no news you might have expected a little more from the Treasury. The funding announced today feels a little like the Chancellor's budget in March 2020, when he allocated a pitiful sum in response to the growing pandemic. Sunak was forced to come back just days later with a new plan and far greater funding to fit the scale of the challenge and even then there remained enormous gaps in support which were never filled. The best we can say about today's figures is that the Chancellor is likely to come back to correct his error before too long. In the meantime, however, businesses and workers – particularly in the hospitality sector – are going to be feeling the squeeze this Christmas.

“Even so, some funding support is better than no support at all, and I would encourage any hospitality businesses affected by the Omicron wave to ensure that they apply for the grant support announced as soon as possible, and to ensure that they make use of the renewed statutory sick pay rebate to protect workers. The economic challenges of the current wave are likely to get worse before they get better so we have to do what we can to keep businesses afloat.”

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said that “mixed messaging” and additional restrictions have had a “catastrophic impact” on his sector over the last two weeks:

“At this critical point, we need strong leadership and a clear pathway from government with a long-term strategy for new Covid variants. The open/close strategy is crucifying businesses.”

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