Greene King seeks help during 'lockdown in all but name'

Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King

Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, said the hospitality sector badly needed help from The Treasury. - Credit: Adam Smyth

The boss of Bury St Edmunds-based Greene King - Britain's largest retailer and brewer - has warned the industry faces disaster without immediate government help as the country enters "lockdown in all but name."

Company chief executive Nick Mackenzie told the BBC's Today programme that while the Treasury had acted very quickly to support the hospitality industry when previous lockdowns were called, there had so far been no details of any further support.

And his call for more financial help for the sector has been backed by backbench Conservative MPs in Suffolk.

Mr Mackenzie said: "The weekend we have just had should be the busiest in the run-up to Christmas but the situation is now incredibly difficult.

"The spread of the variant is obviously causing challenges and government messaging around reducing social contact is putting us, I think, into lockdown in all but name."

He called for more Treasury support including more business rates relief and a cut in VAT to 5%.

"They (The Treasury) do listen. We had a really good relationship with them over the past lockdowns in 2020"

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But so far nothing had been announced this time - and that was a big concern, especially as the Christmas period is vital for pubs and restaurants to build up income before the traditionally quieter months of January and February.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has already called for support for the sector, now that call has been backed by Waveney MP Peter Aldous.

He said: "I am very aware of the problems facing hospitality industries and I do think they should be offered support as soon as possible. It is clear that people are staying away from their premises because of this."

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge is also a junior minister in the Justice Department. He felt the Cabinet had been right to delay making a decision about more restrictions until the effects of the Omicron variant became clearer.

He is isolating at his London flat after testing positive for Covid: "Hopefully in a few weeks time we will know a lot more about it. Clearly it is much more infectious than previous variants but everyone I know who has had it says it is much milder than other forms of the disease."

Mr Cartlidge is a former aide to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and said: "Earlier in the pandemic I saw how determined the Treasury was to provide support and I am sure they will be looking at this all the time as the situation develops."