UK Covid inquiry criticised for failing to consider the full impact on the hospitality industry

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

UK Covid inquiry criticised for failing to consider the full impact on the hospitality industry

Related tags: Coronavirus

Leading hospitality figures have criticised proposals for the forthcoming inquiry into the UK's Coronavirus response for failing to consider the full impact the pandemic had on the hospitality industry.

Hugh Osmond, the founder of Punch Taverns; Sacha Lord, night-time economy advisor for Greater Manchester; and Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), have all made submissions to a public consultation, criticising the draft terms of reference that cover what the probe will investigate and how it will be structured.

They said the proposals fail to consider the impact of specific restrictions on hospitality such as the 10pm curfew and requirement for social distancing, closure of nightclubs and table service.

In their submission, the three business leaders said the measures caused 'wide-reaching damage' including the bankruptcy of many previously viable businesses, unemployment, and negatively affecting the mental health of staff and business owners.

Given the gravity of the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality sector, the three conclude that it deserves its own section within the inquiry.

“Hospitality employs more than three million mainly young people and is a huge contributor to the UK’s economy, its communities, its social life and its overall quality of living," says Osmond.

“Given that it was also the main industry targeted by Government in its response to Covid, it deserves its own specific place in the Public Inquiry to: a) more accurately quantify the enormous damage inflicted by the measures; b) analyse which, if any, of the measures actually made any positive difference to ultimate Covid outcomes; c) what could be done better next time."

The trio add that it is also important that the inquiry establishes a framework for evaluating measures in future, so there are no more 'ad hoc, knee jerk measures' taken in the future.

“The hospitality industry and night time economy have been at the sharpest end of the pandemic, and have suffered immeasurably over the last two years,” says Kill.

“Few if any other sectors have been subject to the same level of restrictions on their ability to trade during this period. It is vitally important that the impact of the pandemic on the sectors we represent are considered fully during this inquiry, with a thorough assessment of impact and effectiveness of Government Covid-19 policy on our sector.

“We need a rigorous accounting of whether the approach by the Government was proportionate, and what processes would need to be implemented in future to avoid the same mistakes.

“Given the importance of this inquiry, and the length of time that the process is likely to take, we are recommending that the Government produce an interim report, analysing the true impact of the Government’s lockdown strategy.

“We believe the costs associated with the Government’s approach will be revealed to be greater than previously understood, and it is important this is brought to light before the coming winter when the Government may again consider such restrictions.”

Earlier this week, trade body UKHospitality detailed its response to the inquiry, stating that it had highlighted the need for a structure that separates the public health and economic strands of pandemic decision making, and urged the government to consider treating the two as different areas of focus, with an interim report on the economic impacts.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Currently, the draft terms of reference for the Inquiry are wide-ranging, and we’re concerned they may be grouped too broadly to allow for effective consideration. This runs the risk of key learnings from individual sectors of the economy – such as hospitality – being missed.

She added: “Having an interim fast-track economic analysis, accompanied by robust conclusions and recommendations relatively early in the Inquiry process – whilst we remain in a period where economic and regulatory levers could be used again – would be extremely useful for all concerned.”

Related topics: Business & Legislation

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