Ministers are asking Rishi Sunak to launch a second helping of his discount dining scheme to lure workers back into Britain’s abandoned city centres.
The Chancellor is understood to have received suggestions from co-workers that a follow up to his hugely triumphant ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ initiative could boost urban markets recover from the coronavirus lockdown.
Treasury officials are examining possible options to present to Rishi Sunak on his return from holiday. Eat out to Help Out, which offered half-price meals in pubs and restaurants three days a week, wound up with millions of families using the bank holiday as the last chance to tuck into taxpayer subsidised chow.
Some ministers would like to see new locally targeted discount schemes to further encourage office workers to return to their desks after months of working from home.
On unnamed minister was quoted in a newspaper as saying that the scheme had been a huge success in general but that it was all very well going to your local restaurant down the road for a cheap meal when those restaurants were already doing good business because of people working from home.
But it was destination restaurants in city centres that needed the help and that was where the resources should have been concentrated.
More than 64 million meals were served up under the Eat out to Help Out scheme, which operated on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August.
Rishi Sunak initially earmarked £500 million from the Treasury to pay for the discount, worth up to £10 a feast. The final cost is expected to be announced in the next few days.
Figures show the average discount was about £5.25, just over half the maximum.
Dozens of restaurant and pub chains have pledged to continue offering the discount over the next few weeks to encourage customers to keep coming back. Yet the Chancellor is worried that the slump in business in city centres around the nation will have a disastrous impact on the broader market.
Many leading businesses including major banks in the City of London have told staff to continue working from home until next year at the earliest. But ministers are understood to want to try to slowly encourage workers back to their offices without being seen as too heavy-handed.
Senior backbench Tory MP Robert Halfon, a former minister said that it should be up to the employers to decide and he added that it’s great if you’ve got vibrant and bustling cities, but that they don’t want to get themselves into a situation where the Tories are seen as saying this is what an employer must do in some sort of forced collectivisation.
The difficulty with the scheme is that if you’re a pub landlord who has taken part in the scheme, there’s a number of problems.
Staff have hardly had a day off, especially chefs and it seems the offer brings out the worst of customers who usually eat at cheap chain pubs with plastic food and have no idea what food should taste like and it diminishes the value of normal menus.
And I’m sorry but £10 off a meal that someone can cook at home for a third of the price in half the time saved by not commuting, never mind the cost of that is not going to encourage people to eat out, never mind return to the office.
This Government has to be more charitable in financially supporting people during this pandemic, but ultimately, we will have to pay the piper.
And don’t forget, people have had almost 6 months to get into the habit of some good home cooking and not eating out, and with both job losses and tax rises on the cards many will find it difficult to justify such foolish expenditure.
However, the Government have been extremely generous inflating the fraudulent statistics to erroneously justify the necessary lockdown. So, eat and be merry because tomorrow the tax man is coming.
It might look like our Government are doing something for us, but we actually do need to look about us because the money that the Government purports to give us is money that YOU the taxpayer has already paid out and then sneakily the Government take it off you again but make it look like charity.
It might have looked as if we were having a meal out on Boris Johnson, but now the fun is over and we have to pay it all back and for years to come – in fact, nothing has been normal for a pretty long time.
The more the Government gives away, the more we have to give back and it’s great for those big businesses that can join the scheme and it’s great for those that can afford to eat out, in the meantime the less well off pay and get nothing.