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Rishi hopes TAKE VAT is a SMASH HIT

  • Date: Monday 20th July 2020
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Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a whole raft of new measures in his summer statement in hopes of bolstering the economy in the wake of the pandemic.

 Amongst various new initiatives, like the £1,000 for employers who bring back furloughed staff, and a 50 per cent discount for diners at certain restaurants, Sunak also announced that VAT would be slashed from 20 per cent to five per cent on food, accommodation and attractions. 



While the VAT reduction is set to cost the Treasury £4billion, it’s hoped the move will help some of the industries which have been hit the hardest over the last few months. 


As a customer, it’s easy to assume the savings will automatically trickle down to you, but it’s become clear in the wake of the announcement that in fact, many businesses are planning on keeping the extra cash for themselves. 


Businesses impacted by the VAT cuts, which include takeaways, restaurants, hotels, and cinemas aren’t legally required to pass on any of the savings to the consumer. 


It’s caused some serious debate, with many taking to social media to praise those who have announced their intention to pass on the full discount to customers, such as coffee giant Starbucks, and to slam those who plan on using the money to compensate for their recent losses. 


Despite the reduction not being applicable to alcohol, pub chain Wetherspoon has managed to find itself in the middle of the controversy, after announcing it would use the tax break to lower prices on its most popular beers. This drew criticism from various trade bodies, who said the chain was misleading customers into thinking cheaper beer prices were a direct result of the Chancellor’s measures. 


When it comes to deciding whether to pass the savings on to the customer or not, I can see both sides of the argument. Of course it must be tempting for businesses who have been brought to their knees in the last few months to try and recoup as much cash as possible. Especially when you consider the extra money they’ve had to plough into PPE and designing new layouts of their premises to ensure social distancing after being given the green light to re-open. 


There’s no obligation to pass savings on to the customer, so they’re not doing anything wrong. In fact, several business owners have spoken out and said the measure was introduced to save struggling companies, not to benefit members of the public. 


While this approach is completely understandable for some, I have to admit it was a great PR move by those who immediately announced that their customers would benefit from the new policy. 


Nando's confirmed it would pass on "100% of the benefits" to its customers, KFC has reduced the price of its sharing buckets and other fan favourites, whilst McDonald's recommended its franchises cut their prices on a variety of products.


I’ve no doubt these announcements will get people talking, and it’s sure to encourage more customers through their doors. People love to think they’re getting a bargain after all. However, you could argue that it’s much easier for these big brand names to take this step. Of course they’ve suffered huge losses during lockdown, but I imagine they’re in a much better position to bounce back now that restrictions have been lifted, compared to some smaller independent businesses. 


Take hotels for example. While we’re all being encouraged to stay in Scotland this summer and to enjoy a staycation to boost the economy, it’s likely that visitor numbers from overseas will be down for months to come. Many hotels rely on this kind of business to stay afloat, so it’s going to take them much longer to get back to a strong financial position than those whose footfall is likely to go back to pre-COVID levels much more quickly. 


Overall, I think the VAT reduction is fantastic news for businesses in the leisure and hospitality sector. Whether business owners choose to pass the savings on to customers or not, I hope it gives them the boost they so desperately need right now, so we can all look forward to some kind of economic recovery. 


Side (328 words)


It can be difficult to find positive news stories of businesses leading from the front foot or major commercial investments taking place in Scotland during this time.


I was incredibly heartened then to see Glasgow headquartered Ambassador Group formally submit two planning proposals to Stirling Council, putting forward its vision for a new multi-million pound investment programme for the redevelopment of Craigforth Campus in Stirling.


Ambassador Group, which has a substantial UK wide portfolio spanning office, retail, leisure, industrial and residential and mixed use projects, is proposing within the submitted plans, the creation of a new purpose built office building in the north of the site, plus a wider masterplan that will bring to life hotel, residential, leisure and retail facilities.


Those who travel regularly on the M9 will perhaps also be heartened to hear that the iconic Prudential building, which is somewhat jarring on the landscape, will also be demolished as part of the regeneration of the area.


Outwith a new Grade A office building on the north of the site and a hotel, retail and food units, a distillery, offices and residential flats being built on the central section, Ambassador Group also propose the site would have a mix of low-rise housing, including a care home and supported living to the south of the campus.


If given the go ahead, the transformation of the 49.5 hectare site into a new state-of-the-art mixed use facility, would certainly bring new investment and employment opportunities to the wider Stirling area and beyond for many years to come.


With unemployment figures set to rise in the coming months, a project like this would certainly help the local economy and I’m sure Stirling Council will have that in the back of their minds when weighing up the submitted proposals.


It’s great to see this forward thinking development being proposed, especially during times like these where we are being told that the Scottish economy could take years to recover due to Coronavirus.


Laugh (134 words)

The conference industry has been hit hard recently, so it was great to hear that events were still taking place - all be it virtually - last week at the Glasgow SECC for The Federation of European Neuroscience Societies.

Billed as the largest international neuroscience meeting in Europe, it would have seen thousands descend on Glasgow for lectures, networking and exhibitions.

Attending in person was out of the question this year, however a fantastic virtual experience was created for everyone to tune in and make the most of a post-Coronavirus world.

I’m all for selling Scotland, but I do think the organisers stretched the truth slightly for the virtual attendees - showcasing the SECC foyer with palm trees, sunshine and Caribbean blue skies.

Life has certainly changed recently, but definitely not the Scottish weather.


Weep (134 words)

It was sad to see official figures show that unemployment in Scotland had risen between March and May, as the impact of lockdown was felt on the economy.

Scotland's unemployment rate rose to 4.3 per cent during this period - a 0.6 per cent increase on the previous quarter. What’s more, Scotland’s unemployment rate is much higher than the overall UK average.

With the number of unemployed Scots up by 15,000 to 120,000, it certainly makes for stark reading. However I fear there is much worse to come.

With nearly 750,000 workers in Scotland on the UK government's Job Retention Scheme, unemployment figures are likely to skyrocket as the scheme ends in October.

It has been a difficult time for many, but as we come out of lockdown, it is set to get worse.




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