If the pandemic taught us one thing, it’s that the City is far more than traders, brokers and bankers. It’s the teams who packed up a host of high-end kit on a Friday and parked it in front rooms in the Home Counties in time for Monday’s open; the insurers and the compliance bods who make sure that the wheels of global finance continue to spin.
It’s also the community around us – the sandwich shops, the baristas, the storefront-suit sellers who allow you to pick up a tie before an important meeting because the mayonnaise from your Pret wrap ruined the one you had on.
The Square Mile, Canary Wharf, and London at large is an ecosystem where all the bits work together for a greater whole. And the pub – and restaurants, and cafes, and retailers – are a huge part of that.
It is no exaggeration to say that many of those businesses are now in a worse spot than they were during the pandemic. Government support allowed (some) of them to survive, even as work from home directives kept their customers away. Now, having weathered an unimaginable storm, they are faced with uncapped energy bills and supply chain inflation that will leave many of them squeezed to the point of submission.
Government must pitch in again – not with handouts, but simply by reducing the tax burden. The domestic energy price cap is in theory supposed to protect households from rocketing bills, but there is no such protection for businesses. Hospitality businesses, hit by rising costs on one side and an increasingly skint customer base on the other, are getting the worst of it. It is time for an emergency VAT cut, mirroring that enacted during the recovery from the pandemic. If such a move would be inflationary, it would be a rounding error compared to other upward pressures. It would be perverse to fritter away two years of pandemic support by failing to act now.