ATTRACTIONS and hotels in north Essex have welcomed a cut to VAT for the hospitality industry as a major boost following the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of an emergency package of support, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that VAT on food, accommodation and attractions will be cut from 20 per cent to five per cent from July 15 until January 12 – a move estimated to worth up to £4 billion for the industry.

He also announced an Eat Out to Help Out plan for dining out in August, which mean meals eaten at any participating business from Monday to Wednesday will be 50 per cent cheaper, up to a maximum of £10 per head.

Businesses will also be paid £1,000 for each employee they bring back from furlough.

Suki Dulai, chief executive of the Flying Trade Group, which runs the George Hotel in Colchester and the Kingscliff Hotel and restaurant in Holland-on-Sea, welcomed some of the moves, but called for stricter measures over personal protective equipment to help build confidence and bring back customers.

He said: “Whilst certain elements possibly may help us in the short term, I believe there are areas where he could have extended the measures to generate and encourage more growth for businesses.

“Where grants and support for capital expenditure are almost non-existent, more emphasis was needed on supporting companies who are trying to expand and create new employment opportunities.

“Until the Government make PPE mandatory and not just guidelines we don’t think that the introduction of Eat Out to Help Out scheme, will work.

“Whilst in principal we welcome these initiatives, safeguarding our guests and staff is our number one priority.

“The hospitality and tourism sectors have been hit hard from the pandemic and whilst the Government is encouraging the sector to pass this reduction on to the consumers to create demand, no considerations have been given for the decrease in sales and inflated costs that we are incurring.”

Clacton Pier director Billy Ball said the move would be a massive boost for the tourism industry, which is worth £1million a day to the Tendring district.

He said: “I’m delighted with the cut in VAT and the £1,000 for each furloughed worker brought back.

“We will also be hoping to get involved with the £10 Eat Out to Help Out voucher scheme.”

Clacton MP Giles Watling also welcomed Mr Sunak’s financial statement.

“I am particularly pleased by the interventions to help our tourism and hospitality businesses, which are so central to our local economy,” he said.

“These sectors are significant employers in our area and these businesses have had to wait patiently to reopen.

“This plan gives them the best start possible to our collective recovery.”

Essex County Council said the annoucements were a “much-needed shot in the arm”.

Tony Ball, cabinet member for economic development, said “The temporary cut in VAT until January will help to make a visit in Essex more affordable, allowing people to get out and about, safely exploring this great county and its many attractions.”