The article below was written by Damian and published in the Herald group of papers on the 3rd September:
"Even as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme entered its final fourth week, figures showed that restaurants had claimed for more than 64 million discounted meals, with an upward trend seen across the month- long programme.
That’s equivalent to nearly every person in the country dining out, and data from OpenTable shows that the number of customers at UK restaurants last week was 61% higher than the same days last year on average for a Monday to Wednesday, with an uplift of 17% compared to the same week in 2019.
More than 84,000 restaurants signed up for the scheme, with many acknowledging how important it has been in enabling them to get staff back to work. Around 80% of hospitality firms stopped trading in April, with 1.4 million workers furloughed, which was the highest of any sector.
Hundreds of restaurants, pubs and cafes across East Hampshire and beyond were able to offer up to 50% discounts on food and non-alcoholic drinks, saving a family of four up to £40 per meal. People have been able to go out and enjoy a meal together, knowing that their custom is helping to support a local business at a time when it most needs a boost.
And some cafes and restaurants - including chains and independents - have opted to keep offering the discount, recognising the benefits of boosting their mid-week trade with discounted offers. Harvester, Tesco Cafe Toby Carvery and now Wetherspoon are all due to offer extended schemes into the autumn.
Eat Out to Help Out was just one part of the Chancellor’s Plan for Jobs, announced last month, but is an important one as the sector could be a key contributor to the jobs recovery post-Covid. Hospitality generated 22% of new jobs for unemployed people in 2010 and 2011, according to the Resolution Foundation, despite accounting for just 10 per cent of overall employment.
Other measures announced to protect, support and create jobs include cutting VAT for tourism and hospitality by 15%, a £2 billion Kickstart Scheme and an £8.8 billion investment in new infrastructure, decarbonisation and maintenance projects.
And this is on top of the Job Retention Scheme, Self Employment Income Support Scheme, Bounce Back Loans and Business Grants that the Treasury introduced during the lockdown. More than 13,000 people in East Hampshire have had their job protected through the furlough scheme, and self-employed people locally have accessed almost £15 million worth of grants to cover lost earnings.
More than £48 million has been paid out to local businesses in the form of Bounce Back Loans, and £23.5 million worth of grants has been given to businesses across East Hampshire to help them keep trading during the lockdown. These are big and bold measures, but critical to keep our small businesses going through unprecedented times.
Importantly, the Eat Out to Help Out scheme has boosted people’s confidence in visiting restaurants, cafes and pubs, knowing that there are strict protocols in place to keep premises Covid-19 Secure. And it is this confidence that will also help people return more regularly to our high streets, which have also been heavily impacted by the pandemic.
How confident we all feel will be really important in the coming weeks as pupils return to the classroom and more workers return to offices and commuting. Parliament resumes this week and I know that I and many fellow colleagues are looking forward to seeing more people return to the parliamentary estate, and the resumption of more face-to-face proceedings.
I am also looking forward to resuming constituent visits and surgery appointments this week, albeit with all of the necessary precautions, but I can also of course offer phone call appointments for anyone that may prefer that option."