Fife restaurants give mixed response to UK Government budget

Food and drink businesses in north east Fife have given a mixed response to the UK Government’s latest budget.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 2:56 pm
Graham and Rachel Bucknall from the TBC Pub Company.

It was announced yesterday that the furlough scheme and the five per cent VAT for hospitality, accommodation and attractions across the UK would be extended until the end of September.

Graham Bucknall, from the TBC Pub Company, who owns The Bridge Inn at Ratho and The Ship Inn at Elie, described the announcement as a “missed opportunity”.

He said: "A missed opportunity for VAT reform. As an industry we’ve been campaigning for years for more fairness in VAT, to bring us in line with the low rates enjoyed by supermarkets in the UK and by hospitality businesses in Europe. It took a pandemic to get rates to that level. How disappointing now to see that rates will be put back to the former high levels with no attempt to look at the benefits to the UK economy from maintaining low rates for UK hospitality businesses.

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“A missed opportunity for business rates reform. By April next year we will be back to pre-Covid rates, with an opportunity missed to look at reform to the business rates system. Shops, pubs, hotels and many other small businesses pay business rates - whilst online businesses like Amazon pay a tiny amount of business rates.

“A missed opportunity to show genuine understanding for the current situation in hospitality. VAT rates increasing from June, employers shouldering an increasing share of furlough costs from June. An uncertain business rate environment after June. This budget seems based on an industry which is up and running and already growing. But in reality we are not open, and we have no real detail about when we will be able to be open. So we can’t quantify any benefit if we are not allowed to trade.”

Will Docker, owner of Balgove Larder and chair of Food From Fife, said he was “pleased” that furlough was being extended, as well as the reduced VAT.

He added: “We absolutely understand the enormity of the level of government support during these unprecedented times and that these measures have to be balanced to a shift towards government income though we are not out of this yet.”

Jessica Spink, from the Tailend restaurants in St Andrews and Dundee, said she was “grateful” for government support, adding: “The reduced VAT rate in particular has been been a lifesaver for us – really our saving grace. We’ve largely operated as a takeaway only from our two restaurants and while we’ve been able to use the furlough scheme, other business costs still have to be paid – so we’re really pleased to see the extension of the reduced VAT rate as well as the furlough scheme reduction.”

And it is not just restaurants that are impacted.

Sophie Latinis, from the Pittenweem Chocolate Company, said: "We are very grateful for the support we have received as they are a lifeline to our survival and continuation. I am very positive for the future and my big hope for the hospitality Industry is an adaptation of the fairer EU system, where six to seven per cent is charged.”