UKHospitality: ’Back hospitality’

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, has a simple message for our next government…

Well, they’ve listened. Now they need to deliver. The Conservative and Labour parties have both taken onboard several UKHospitality policy recommendations that we believe will help our industry to grow – and grow much faster than the wider UK economy, creating jobs and regenerating communities.

I told the recent UKHospitality Summer Conference that our sector is a huge economic engine, with a turnover of £140bn and providing £54bn in taxes, funding vital public services. So, our message to the winning party is simple: back hospitality.

We’d like to see the new government introduce a series of recommendations including: fixing business rates with a permanently reduced rate for hospitality and tourism; reforming the Apprenticeship Levy; planning reform allowing more hospitality-led regeneration of towns and cities; and reviewing and reforming VAT to bring it in line with European rivals. And, as I say, the main parties appear to have heeded our call, with most manifestos featuring measures we’ve been campaigning for and need to see implemented.

First to land was the Conservative blueprint which contained, to our delight, a commitment to deliver one of UKHospitality’s big calls: fixing the unfair burden of business rates on hospitality businesses. While rates may not necessarily be a significant cost pressure for contract caterers, reforming the system and reducing the costs for other hospitality businesses and the wider high street will be to the benefit of the catering sector, as more money goes back into their pockets ready to be spent.

In our manifesto last year we called for total reform of the broken business rates system that sees hospitality businesses pay three times their fair share. We need a permanent, lower rate for hospitality that lets businesses invest in high streets, creating places where people want to live, work and invest.

We’re pleased, too, to see a commitment to fund 100,000 apprenticeships for young people. However, a higher priority is fixing problems with the existing Apprenticeship Levy system, which desperately needs reform.

Labour’s manifesto commitments are testament to 18-months of UKHospitality’s engagement with the party concerning our industry’s priorities, and it’s clear that they’ve listened and acted on our recommendations. Like the Tories, Labour has also put on record that it will replace the unfair business rates system and reduce the burden on high street businesses.

Hospitality pays three times its fair share of rates as a proportion of its turnover. An incoming government can easily lower that within its first 100 days through the introduction of a permanently lower rate for hospitality and other high street businesses.

Across both party manifestos, there have been a number of commitments to public sector procurement, an area of great interest to contract caterers. Labour want to see a simpler process that supports small- and medium-sized enterprises and reduces waste, while the Conservatives want to see at least 50% of food expenditure spent on food produced locally or to higher environmental production standards. Both commitments are limited in detail, but we’d certainly want to see contract catering companies engaged early on in any changes to ensure that we can continue to deliver essential food and drink to the nation’s schools, hospital and armed services, to name a few.

Of course, all that pre-election manoeuvring lent our Summer Conference an added sense of importance, and the title we’d chosen for it appeared prescient, given the policy recommendation the Conservatives and Labour have committed to: Serving Britain: how hospitality creates places where people want to live, work and invest. And it was against that election campaigning background that conference delegates enjoyed a busy programme that covered the economic outlook; regeneration and hospitality as a force for good; hospitality making careers; investment and innovation in the sector; and championing hospitality in the digital age.

It will be fascinating to see in what sort of political landscape we host at next year’s UKHospitality Summer Conference.

You may also be interested in…