London, August 11
British finance minister Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, offering 50 per cent meal discounts across restaurants, cafes and pubs in the UK, seems to be a big hit as the UK Treasury department revealed on Tuesday that it has already been used more than 10.5 million times in its first week.
The scheme, put in place from August 3 by the Indian-origin minister as a way to reinvigorate the country’s hospitality sector hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown and encourage people to dine out, means the government foots the bill for 50 per cent of a meal at participating restaurants between Monday to Wednesday.
The half-price discount runs throughout August and applies to all food and non-alcoholic drinks consumed on the premises, with a maximum discount per person of 10 pound which is automatically deducted from the bill.
“Our Eat Out to Help Out scheme’s number one aim is to help protect the jobs of 1.8 million chefs, waiters and restaurateurs by boosting demand and getting customers through the door,” said Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
“More than 72,000 establishments will be serving discounted meals across the country, with the government paying half the bill. The industry is a vital ingredient to our economy and it’s been hit hard by coronavirus, so enjoy summer safely by showing your favourite places your support – we’ll pay half,” he said.
The scheme is part of Sunak’s wider 30-billion pounds “Plan for Jobs”, aimed at spurring the UK’s economic recovery from the prolonged coronavirus shutdown since March.
The scheme is aimed at safeguarding the jobs of the hospitality industry’s nearly 1.8 million employees by encouraging people to safely return to their local restaurants, cafes and pubs where social-distancing rules allow.
According to the UK Treasury, around 80 per cent of hospitality firms stopped trading in April, with 1.4 million workers furloughed – or put on forced leave – the highest of any sector.
Other measures announced by Sunak to “protect, support and create jobs” as the UK gradually tries to emerge from lockdown include cutting VAT for tourism and hospitality by 15 per cent, a 2 billion pounds Kickstart Scheme and an 8.8 billion pounds investment in new infrastructure, decarbonisation and maintenance projects.
Meanwhile, latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday reflect the real cost of the lockdown as it shows that UK employment fell by the largest amount in over a decade between April and June. The ONS said that its data shows that the number of people in work decreased by 220,000, the largest quarterly decrease since May to July 2009 during the peak of the financial crisis.
“The groups of people most affected are younger workers, 24 and under, or older workers and those in more routine or less skilled jobs. This is concerning, as it’s harder for these groups to find a new job or get into a job as easily as other workers,” said Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS.
Sunak has repeatedly warned of tough times ahead as the UK begins to lift lockdown restrictions in phases and opens up different sectors of the economy.
“Today’s labour market stats make it clear that our unprecedented support measures, including the furlough and self-employed support schemes, are working to safeguard millions of jobs and livelihoods that could otherwise have been lost,” he said.
The senior Cabinet minister once again reiterated his message that while the government would not be able to protect every job, it did have “a clear plan to protect, support and create jobs to ensure that nobody is left without hope”.
The Opposition parties have described the latest employment data as “extremely worrying”. — PTI
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