Updated: Mar 5, 2021
The fish and chip industry wants to see a clear plan of financial support in Wednesday’s budget that includes an extension of the VAT cut and business rates relief, as well as a focus on jobs and the environment.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce the details of his Budget at a press conference at 5pm on Wednesday 3rd March following a statement in the House of Commons, which usually takes place at around 12.30pm. He has already outlined a £5bn support package for hospitality businesses still struggling as a result of the pandemic but there are calls for the government to go further still.
Stuart Devine, owner of The Ashvale in Aberdeen, is calling for a clear longterm plan spanning at least three years. His seven restaurants have been closed since January and his takeaways are operating on a delivery and click & collect basis only. He comments: “We need an immediate plan starting with VAT being left at 5% for at least the next 12 months, with a slow increase over the following two years possibly to settle between 10 and 15%.
“In Scotland we already have a rates freeze for the next 12 months but again this needs to be reviewed and made fairer going forward. There’s no point going back to work to survive, we need to go back to strive to of course clear ourselves of the increased debt we have endured over the last year.”
Chris Pithey, owner of Linford’s Traditional Fish & Chips in Market Deeping, Peterborough, also wants to see an extension to the VAT reduction as well as the business rates relief. With his restaurant closed since November, he’s been relying on takeaway sales only. He comments: “Even though we have been open, business has been far from normal and extending these two until a time where people are comfortable with going out and eating out would be a welcome announcement.”
While extending the 5% VAT cut for a longer period is on most people’s wish list, Paul Goodgame, managing director of The Chesterford Group, which owns the Fish’n’Chick’n and Churchills chains, would like to hear an indication from the Chancellor that the government is considering VAT reform for the longer team. “This would level up the playing field and enable the industry the opportunity to innovate further with the benefit of that saving,” he says.
Paul is also keen to see a plan to drive jobs by investing in infrastructure development and supporting manufacturing in the UK, as well as an increased focus on the environment. He adds: "To quote the words of Bill Gates and avoid a “climate change disaster” we must have a strong budget to invest in innovation that reduce carbon and encourage both investor and the consumers to go green.”
Alastair Horabin owns five restaurants on the Fylde coast in Lancashire under the Seniors brand. Although the takeaways have remained open, the restaurants have been closed for nearly a year now. Alastair would like to see an extension of furlough, the VAT cut and business rates relief but, more crucially, a reform of VAT. He adds: “VAT staying at 5%, everyone in the industry wants that, it puts a sticking plaster on all our problems. But the government needs to go further than that.
"At the moment, you’ve got a guy under the threshold paying 0% VAT, a guy with a £150,000 turnover paying 12.5% and a guy like myself paying 20%. We all sell the same product, but we’re operating in different markets. I would like a more universal, flat rate 10% so you pay 10% from your first £1 to your £10 millionth.”
According to the Office for National Statistics, the government borrowed a record £240.9bn from April to November 2020 to help fund schemes such as furlough, Eat Out to Help Out” and Bounce Back loans.
This is £188.6bn more than the previous year and the highest public sector borrowing in any April to November period since monthly records began in 1993.