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King's Lynn hospitality leader welcomes helping hand grant for the industry

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A leader of West Norfolk's hospitality industry has welcomed a new fund that is helping the county's leisure industry weather the worst of the Omicron variant's impact.

One-off grants of up to £6,000 will be available for businesses to apply for from the borough council, with the size determined by the rateable value of each business.

Michael Baldwin, West Norfolk area president of the Norfolk Chambers of Commerce said: “I think the fact that they’ve put the fund out there is a really positive step after the last month.”

Christmas message of thanks to West Norfolk. Pictured is Michael Baldwin inside the Wenns (54146456)
Christmas message of thanks to West Norfolk. Pictured is Michael Baldwin inside the Wenns (54146456)

He added that the festive period had been “a real rollercoaster”.

Mr Baldwin, who owns both Bank House and the Wenns Chop and Ale House in Lynn, said of early and mid December: “We had a lot of people cancelling, they weren’t sure whether they should go out.

“We then found that by the week before Christmas, everyone had come to terms with it – [in] that last week, it was very very busy.

Bank House (54146477)
Bank House (54146477)

“It got much quieter in January, because people were going into isolation,” he said.

Roughly a third of Norfolk’s total has been set aside for North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) alone – some £8,070,885, which is also the largest received by any authority in the East of England.

West Norfolk has been given £4,596,462, the third largest amount, behind Great Yarmouth (£4,698,495). Norwich (£2,124,099), South Norfolk (£1,632,150), Breckland (£1,626,147) and Broadland (£1,590,147) make up the rest of the £24,338,385 given to the county out of a nationwide £1 billion Government support package..

The size of the payments allocated to each council was based on the number of leisure and hospitality businesses in each area.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak today announced plans to support self-employed workers (54146482)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak today announced plans to support self-employed workers (54146482)

The grants will be equivalent to the monthly cash grants provided to hospitality businesses when they were fully closed this time last year, despite businesses now being still able to trade.

The industry trade body Hospitality UK has reported that many businesses have lost 40-60 per cent of their December trade, often their most profitable month.

Martin Rodwell, manager of Breakers Cafe in Cromer, said the Omicron variant had “absolutely devastated trade in the lead-up to Christmas” and the fund would be “a huge benefit” after having to dip into his reserves over the festive period.

He added that reducing VAT on businesses would be a further help, because “nobody in business wants to be hand to mouth”.

North Norfolk District Council’s Liberal Democrat portfolio holder for sustainable growth Richard Kershaw said the money still might not be enough.

“It’s good news that the Government is taking action to support the businesses which have been critically affected by the impact of Covid and the measures taken to date to counter the spread of the virus,” he said.

“The figure of £8.07 million represents around 80 per cent of the £9.9 million Covid-related impact we have identified in North Norfolk and while the sum allocated is very welcome, depending on how the next phase of the virus pans out in the months ahead, we will need to keep assessing the situation to see if we need to ask for more,” he added.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “We recognise that the spread of the Omicron variant means businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors are facing huge uncertainty, at a crucial time.

“So we’re stepping in with £1 billion of support, including a new grant scheme, the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and further funding released through the Culture Recovery Fund.”

The Culture Recovery Fund referred to by Mr Sunak will be used to support organisations such as theatres, orchestras and museums through the winter until March.

Businesses operating outside leisure and hospitality which have been affected by Omicron will be able to apply for funds from a newly topped-up Additional Restrictions Grant.

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