The Eat Out to Help Out scheme may seem like a generous way to kick-start the economy, but is it a sensible economic rescue plan? It is an ingenious means of getting people to part with their cash and inject money into local businesses, but there doesn’t need to be a sole focus on the restaurant industry.
Mark Littlewood, the IEA Director-General, recently said: “You can completely understand why restaurateurs like the scheme … But I don’t see a compelling case for helping the restaurant sector more than any other particular sector, some of which have suffered worse.”
Speaking to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2, Littlewood discussed how, although we have this current scheme in place, there ends up being no excuse for the Government to ignore the idea of creating more initiatives for other failing sectors. Industries such as nightclubs, sporting events and even airlines. Littlewood notes that, sooner or later, we’d be in danger of creating an economy in which “absolutely everybody is then living at everybody else’s expense”.
It seems unlikely the Government will be rolling out any more cash for struggling sectors, but that hasn’t stopped prominent members from those industries calling for their own ‘Help Out’ initiatives.
Michael van Clarke, a renowned hairdresser with over 40 years in the industry, said: “After the success of Rishi’s Dishes, with Eat Out to Help Out, is it time to ask for Blow Out to Help Out with hairdressing? Although there was an initial flurry for us all to get our hair done, clients overall are still very cautious about returning to the salon as they did before.”
Van Clarke continued: “COVID and lockdown have been disorientating for most people. Rates of depression have doubled. The Hair and Beauty industry has been hit hard with a near 4-month lockdown.
“And now a bizarre decision to bring congestion charging to central London on Saturdays is damaging trade even further. Instead of issuing more prescriptions for antidepressants, a Blow Out to Help Out scheme would raise self-esteem and improve trading conditions.”
Wherever you turn, there will be a struggling industry with a compelling case as to why they need Rishi’s money, but indeed a better way to tackle the economic struggle would be to implement general policies like a reduction in VAT or income tax. That way, you’d be addressing the issue for everyone, rather than just implementing targeted schemes.
The only thing Eat Out to Help Out has shown is that Britain is a nation that loves a bargain more than it fears a pandemic.